The Revitalized Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean Array (TAO)

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner
Thursday, 8 January 2015: 2:30 PM
131AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Richard H. Bouchard, NOAA/NDBC, Stennis Space Center, MS; and H. H. Portmann, K. O'Neil, S. Cucullu, and J. Jenner

TAO provides real-time data from 55 moored ocean buoys for improved detection, understanding and prediction of El Niņo and La Niņa. Availability of the TAO array has suffered since 2012 after NOAA was forced because of funding challenges to lay up its research vessel Ka'imimoana, which had been dedicated for servicing TAO. In January 2014, the National Weather Service (NWS) and NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) made a strong commitment to apply resources to restore the TAO array to as near to 80% data return as possible by the end of 2014. The National Data Buoy Center (NDBC), an agency of the NWS, operates and maintains the TAO Array and its data management system.

This commitment has resulted in a revitalized TAO array with NDBC completing three of six planned cruises by the end of July 2014. With the completion of the third cruise, NDBC improved data availability from the low of 28% in March 2014 to more than 50% at the end of July 2014. The NOAA Ship Ron Brown will conduct the three remaining TAO cruises for 2014. NDBC remains on-track to reach the target of 80% data availability by the end of December 2014. After a couple of years of limited maintenance activity of the TAO, NDBC engaged in a monumental effort of operational planning and execution, rigorous engineering build and test, and materials acquisition and logistical support to fulfill those commitments for the six cruises. The cruises will also allow NDBC to complete the refresh of TAO technology (TAO Refresh) by the end of 2014. Among its many advantages, TAO Refresh provides more data in real-time.

Also a new milestone in NDBC's anti-vandalism initiative was achieved. Cameras on a TAO buoy provided evidence that resulted in actions taken against the captain of a fishing vessel that interfered with the buoy's operation, degraded the quality of the measurements, and jeopardized the integrity of the mooring. Damage caused by fishermen, a decades-old problem, has had a profound effect on the quality and quantity of TAO observations.

In addition, NDBC's Mission Control Center (MCC) implemented new automated quality control algorithms, improved the data delivery webpage, established a formal process to archive TAO data at the National Ocean Data Center (NODC), and transitioned the real-time data messages from their traditional text formats to binary formats to comply with World Meteorological Organization mandates.

NDBC plans to expand the number of buoy cameras. NDBC will explore other vandal detection systems and non-lethal deterrents to vandalism, explore the use of surface and subsurface marine autonomous vehicles in the array and the adaptation of its game-changing Self-Contained Ocean Observing Payload (SCOOP) project to the TAO mission. All of these efforts are aimed at increasing the cost-effectiveness of the TAO observations while maintaining or improving the level of quality.