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25.05.2015 04:04 Age: 3 yrs
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Ocean Observing Systems - What can we learn from our experiences?

Zdenka Willis, Director of the US Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Program Office and Tim Moltmann, Director of the Australian Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) recently shared experiences of the US and Australian contributions to global ocean observations.


Zdenka Willis, Director of IOOS visits the IMOS facilities operated out of The University of Western Australia (Ocean gliders and Ocean radar). Photo: Agi Gedeon

Ocean observing is an international endeavour that is being implemented at global, regional and national scales. A relatively small number of countries have invested in creating integrated ocean observing systems to support their own national goals.

In 2007, The (US) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established an Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Program Office to coordinate NOAA’s ocean observing activities. The US IOOS Program Office mandate has evolved to “leading the integration of ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes observing capabilities, in collaboration with Federal and non-Federal partners”.

Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) was also established in 2007.

While the US and Australian national observing systems have much in common, they also have fundamental differences that are informative to discuss and explore. In terms of mission, IOOS has an operational perspective and IMOS is coming from a research infrastructure perspective. These can overlap in the realm of ocean observing, but the primary objectives (and therefore the business models) are quite different.

The US is well established as a world leader in global ocean observing. This is manifest through NASA’s satellite programs, and through substantial US contributions to the global XBT network, volunteer observing fleet, tide gauge network, drifter array, tropical moored buoy array, reference mooring network, Argo network, and repeat hydrography program.

IOOS and IMOS have been collaborating since their inception. This collaboration has now grown to encompass joint participation in global programs on high frequency radar, ocean gliders, animal tracking, and data management.

IOOS is currently leading the council of Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) Regional Alliances, and IMOS has recently been accepted as a GOOS Regional Alliance by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO.

The seminar covered a number of issues including;

  • Ocean observations and ocean modelling
  • Data – integration, access and use for improved decision making
  • Long term funding for sustained observing systems
  • Defining and addressing societal benefits, and quantifying socio-economic benefits