GCOS GOOS WCRP/OOPC IX/3
ARCTIC OCEAN STATUS, ISSUES, OPPORTUNITIES
Oceanography Section, R&D Division, Norwegian Meteorological Institute
An Ocean Observing System for the Arctic does not exist at present. Based on the Arctic's
importance for global climate, and the high cost and high risk involved in developing such a
system for a partly ice covered ocean, this omission should be taken seriously. Not only
would climate research be improved by information in the Arctic so would numerical
weather prediction and calibration of remote sensing data in general, so an efficient observing
system demands coordination across fields.
A timely opportunity arises with the upcoming International Polar Year 2007 2009 (IPY;
), co sponsored by ICSU and WMO.
In the current implementation plan it is stated that the activities of IPY will consist of:
A synoptic set of multidisciplinary observations to establish the status of the polar
environment in 2007 2008
The acquisition of key data sets necessary to understand factors controlling change in
the polar environment
The establishment of a legacy of multidisciplinary observational networks
The launch of internationally coordinated, multidisciplinary expeditions into new
The implementation of polar observatories to study important facets of Planet Earth
The IPY planning process is still underway, but there is a grassroot movement to make the
establishment of an AOOS a core activity, or theme, of IPY.
Scientific requirements for an AOOS
The Arctic Ocean cannot dynamically be considered separately from the ice and
atmosphere above. Similarly the Arctic cannot be considered separately from the rest
of the globe. An observing system for the Arctic should recognize these facts, and
ensure simultaneous, coordinated observations of the first order variables.
Oceanic variables of first order importance to be monitored include
Strength of the boundary currents. Requires current meter arrays across sloping
topography at select sites and gliders.
Modification of water masses. Requires full depth repeated CTD profiles, for
instance from bottom moored and/or ice anchored profiling CTDs and gliders.
Thickness of ice. Requires upward looking sonars for in situ measurements.
Pathways of water masses. Requires subsurface free drifting floats.
Technical issues for an AOOS
Some of the necessary instrumentation is proven even in ice covered oceans. These include
bottom anchored moorings, which naturally will provide the backbone for an AOOS. For