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IOOC.jpgThe Indian Ocean Observing System -- IOOS -- is an international project to build a sensor network across the Indian Ocean in order to monitor ocean and atmospheric conditions. Started in 2000, nine deep ocean moorings are already in place (three each from Japan, the United States, and India), with more planned, including a cooperative venture between Australia and China, along with the integration of existing ocean monitoring systems. The Indian Ocean Panel, which is coordinating the system's development, is a joint effort of CLIVAR (the Climate Variability and Predictability project) and GOOS (the Global Ocean Observing System project).

While the December tsunami heightened the awareness of the need for greater ocean monitoring in the region, the need for more information about changes to the environment has been growing for some time.

Dr [Gary] Meyers [of Australia's CSIRO] said the recent discovery of El Nino-like phenomena in the Indian Ocean - strong two-way interactions between ocean and atmosphere - has highlighted the importance of regional data collection to understand and predict seasonal and longer-term climate variability over all the surrounding continents.

Among these are -

  • the Indian Ocean Dipole, a fluctuation of surface temperature and currents that brings drought to Indonesia and heavy rain to semiarid regions of Africa. The Dipole is simultaneously related to deficit of rainfall as far away as southeastern Australia.
  • the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO)- a weather pattern that evolves for as long as four weeks and that interacts strongly with the surface layer of the ocean. It originates over the Indian Ocean and impacts on Asian and Australian rainfalls, west coast U.S. weather, tropical Atlantic hurricane formation, and occasionally affects the evolution of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).
  • the Indian Ocean has warmed rapidly in the last 30 years and its effects have been tracked to the North Atlantic Oscillation and Sahel rainfall. But scientists do not yet know how it has affected Australian climate.
[...] "Elements of a basin-wide observing network are already in place and generating valuable ocean data. Through satellites, US and Japanese scientists are obtaining information from some of the moorings within 24 hours of recordings, and making the data available to climate modelling and prediction centres around the world.

"Our intention is to build on this foundation and expand it to improve our understanding of temperature structure and currents across the North and South Indian Oceans," he said.

The graphic above is from the February 2005 IOOS draft system plan (PDF), showing both deep ocean moorings and integrated monitor networks. The second Indian Ocean Panel international meeting (PDF) concluded on Friday, with a focus on the relationship between the Indian Ocean El Nino-like effect and periodic regional droughts.

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