Research Vessels Real Time Air-Sea Fluxes


The Real-Time Air-Sea Fluxes sub-facility collects and manages routine, at sea meteorological and sea surface observations required to estimate bulk air-sea fluxes of momentum, heat and mass.  

These included observations of wind, air and sea temperature, humidity, pressure, precipitation and long- and short-wave radiation.  Air-sea fluxes are measured on three research vessels: the Marine National Facility RV Investigator (the RV Southern Surveyor prior to 2015), working mainly in the waters around Australian; the Australian Antarctic supply vessel RSV Aurora Australis, operating in waters between Australia and Antarctica; and the New Zealand  National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) vessel RV Tangaroa, working in waters around New Zealand.  

These three vessels are equipped with automated meteorological and oceanographic measurement systems capable of providing high quality observations on a near real-time basis suitable for calculating bulk air-sea fluxes.  An improved knowledge and mapping of air-sea fluxes is one of the great challenges of climate research and this sub-facility will obtain data for study of the role of the ocean on climate variability, carbon levels, ecosystems and coastal environments.

Instrumentation and Data

The Air-Sea Flux sub-facility collects rare meteorological and surface ocean observations for bulk flux measurements of heat, mass and momentum in data sparse regions of the ocean.  

Instrumentation is operated in an autonomous underway configuration on three ships of opportunity: the Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator (previously the Southern Surveyor), the Australian Antarctic Division resupply and research vessel Aurora Australis, and the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd. (NIWA) research vessel Tangaroa. The Marine National Facility research vessel Southern Surveyor was replaced with the research vessel RV Investigator in 2015.  

Observations collected on the vessels are delivered in near real-time (hourly to daily transmissions of 1-minute averaged data). Bulk air-sea fluxes of momentum, heat and mass are computed. Data is automatically quality controlled and sent to the IMOS ocean portal. Meteorological observations are also put onto the GTS as the contribution to the Australian Volunteer Observing Fleet.

Applications of Data

The first Research Vessel (RV) Investigator research voyage to the Southern Ocean:

Research scientists and engineers from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, as part of the Collaboration for Australian Weather and Climate Research (CAWCR), installed state-of-the art instrumentation on the Marine National Facility (MNF) RV Investigator to collect first-ever collocated measurements of cloud, aerosol properties, precipitation, and surface radiation on 20-29 March 2015 out to 50°S latitude.

We need more observations and measure more properties of clouds and aerosols to better understand these processes and link them to model deficiencies. Year-round SOTS mooring observations, long-term measurements collected at Macquarie Island (54°S) from March 2016 in collaboration with the Australian Antarctic Division, and more research voyages with the Investigator will complement our existing database.