Ocean Observing and Climate pages
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Ocean Observing and Climate

Observational Errors and Uncertainty

High quality surface meteorological observations are only made at a limited number of locations on board research vessels and moored buoys. However, routine meteorological observations are made by merchant ships over much of the global ocean. These observations are collected as part of the Voluntary Observing Ships (VOS) program, coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). These observations include all the parameters needed to calculate the surface fluxes such as wind speed, air temperature and humidity and sea surface temperature. The observations also include more descriptive parameters such as the present weather and sea state.

Observations from VOS, and earlier merchant and naval vessels dating back to 1784, have been collated in the International Comprehensive Ocean Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS). These observations have been used in numerous studies, including studies of climate change, constructing climatologies of the surface marine environment, compiling atlases of surface heat and momentum fluxes, validating satellite parameters and model output validation. VOS observations are also assimilated into Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) forecast and reanalysis models.

Whilst these observations have been widely used they contain systematic and random errors and need to be handled with care. Part of the research by the Surface Processes sub-group in OOC aims to improve the modern VOS observations through identifying and correcting biases in the observations.

Recent work includes: