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Project Overview

Atmospheric Ocean Observatory

Atmospheric Ocean Observatory (AOO)

Expanding ocean-atmosphere measurements with a new facility

Atmospheric Ocean Observatory (AOO) Project

Climate change is expected to have far reaching implications across the globe, from the alarming and accelerating warming of the Arctic ¹, and consequent seasonal reduction in sea ice extent, to significant changes occurring in Asian Monsoon precipitation ² ³ ⁴. International efforts to study the Arctic are being undertaken, such as the one-year MOSAiC ⁵ drifting observatory project, but repeated, long-term observations in the polar regions will be vital to understanding the mechanisms and rate of ongoing change, and in reducing uncertainty in global climate model predictions. Consistent, standardized measurement of a wide range of atmospheric data and temporal phenomena over the Arctic Ocean is significantly constrained and currently represents a crucial data gap for climate models.

The collaboration between Global Oceans and a developing AOO Science Consortium of academic institutions, government agencies, and intergovernmental bodies, seeks to address these atmospheric data gaps by expanding observation capacity with a new atmospheric observation facility called the Atmospheric Ocean Observatory, or AOO. The AOO facility will be owned and operated as an independent, nongovernmental, scientific asset for the global science community.

This new initiative will enable more rapid and frequent deployment of facilities for atmospheric measurements worldwide, with a particular focus on observations in the Arctic Ocean for improving global climate modeling, and observations in the Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific to support improved modeling of Asian Monsoon systems (see the Project Highlight on the Asian Monsoon Modeling Project here).

The AOO project will design, build, and operate a four-module suite of globally certified, ship-borne atmospheric instrument systems containing over 40 instruments, including a workshop module, that will generate measurements shown in Table 1. Specific instrument configurations will be adapted for each set of mission experiments and observations based on the science drivers. 

The AOO will also provide internal space to host and support investigator-specific instrumentation, and investigators will be encouraged to contribute unique instruments for each deployment.


Atmospheric Ocean Observatory (AOO) Facility

Core Measurement Parameters:

  • Near-surface Meteorology

  • Radiation

  • Surface Temperature

  • Cloud Base Height/Presence

  • Cloud Liquid Water & Water Vapor

  • Precipitation

  • Thermodynamic Profiles

  • Wind Profiling

  • Cloud Profiling & Microphysics

  • Aerosol Properties

  • Gas Concentration

  • Water Source Attribution

Context of New Observational Capacity

In the context of current instrument capacity, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement user facility (ARM) currently offers three mobile observatories, only one of which is suited for ocean deployment. Through the DOE program these assets are scheduled years in advance, often for long campaigns, which limits the flexibility and responsiveness of their use.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also operates research platforms supporting a wide variety of research, including atmospheric observations, but is similarly limited in facility availability and timing of funding. Current capacity for atmospheric measurements over coastal and open ocean regions on research vessels is therefore constrained by the limited number and availability of existing mobile observatory assets as well as by government funding to deploy those assets.

What the AOO will Achieve

The AOO observatory project will achieve the following objectives:

  • Establish a nonprofit, nongovernmental ownership and management program structure that ensures continuing, flexible, cost effective access to the AOO by the international scientific community for climate research.

  • Provide a highly-collaborative, accessible, state-of-the-art observation capacity to the scientific community, and support proposals for ship-borne atmospheric observations over the world’s oceans where the need for data is greatest.

  • Build on existing scientific community expertise on the design and operational history of atmospheric observation facilities, upgraded with state-of-the-art instruments.

  • Manage the AOO program to ensure scientific integrity, highest quality data, impactful campaign participation, and open access.

  • Leverage capacity through Global Oceans to readily mobilize expedition vessels worldwide, including icebreaking vessels for polar observations, for hosting AOO deployments with a strategy for chartering commercial sector vessels configured for scientific research.

An initial AOO Science Advisory Council has been established and we welcome international scientists, especially including postdoctoral researchers and early career scientists to join the Council and share their ideas, expertise, and research interests. An additional body of collaborating institutions, the AOO Science Consortium, is also being formed as an active group of participating research and advisory partners. 


  1. Larsen, J.N., O.A. Anisimov, A. Constable, A.B. Hollowed, N. Maynard, P. Prestrud, T.D. Prowse, and J.M.R. Stone, 2014:Polar regions. In: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change[Barros, V.R.,C.B. Field, D.J. Dokken, M.D. Mastrandrea, K.J. Mach, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova,B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1567-1612.

  2. Kripalani, R. H., et al. "Indian monsoon variability in a global warming scenario." Natural hazards 29.2 (2003): 189-206.

  3. Vinnarasi, R., and C. T. Dhanya. "Changing characteristics of extreme wet and dry spells of Indian monsoon rainfall." Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres 121.5 (2016): 2146-2160.

  4. Roxy M. K., Panini Dasgupta, Michael J. McPhaden, Tamaki Suematsu, Chidong Zhang and Daehyun Kim, 2019, Twofold expansion of the Indo-Pacific warm pool warps the MJO lifecycle, Nature, 575, 647–651. doi: 10.1038/s41586-019-1764-4

  5. Dethloff, Klaus, Markus Rex, and Matthew Shupe. "Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC)." EGUGA (2016): EPSC2016-3064

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