Focus on open ocean time series sites

  • This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , co-chair of OceanSITES
  • August 2016

OceanSITES is one of the groups in the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) that focuses on oversight and advocacy of a specific component of GOOS. With a focus on open-ocean time-series sites, the mission of OceanSITES is to collect, deliver and promote the use of high-quality data from long-term, high-frequency observations at fixed locations in the open ocean. Those working at relevant time series sites are encouraged to collect multidisciplinary data from the full-depth water column as well as the overlying atmosphere. OceanSITES does not directly fund the time-series sites. Instead, it works to coordinate the observing goals of the different disciplines in order to build a global array (Figure 1); to provide capacity building information and knowledge; to make that data from the global array freely available in a common data format; and to represent and provide information on open ocean time series observing to groups documenting and developing the GOOS and the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)

OceanSITES Image 

Figure 1.  A map of the current array of time series sites within OceanSITES.

Time series observations at critical or representative locations are one essential element of a global ocean observing system to complement a range of other approaches. They can provide a unique view of the full temporal behaviour of a system; accurate reference and long-time baseline data; and the maximum possible range of interlinked variables from the seafloor to the atmosphere, all while enabling shared resources. OceanSITES seeks the input of disciplinary and regional and global ocean science and observing groups and programs in order to best understand where time-series observing sites would have high value. At the same time, input is sought on what observations should be made at individual sites and across multiple sites. OceanSITES is thus informed to develop plans for OceanSITES evolution and to provide information to groups such as the Ocean Observations Panel for Climate (OOPC), an advisory groups making recommendations on sustained ocean observing for climate under GCOS, GOOS, and the World Climate Research Program (WCRP).

An example of OceanSITES acting on community guidance is the development of its contribution to a deep ocean T/S (temperature/salinity) observing strategy. Deep T/S sensor challenge Deep Ocean observations (below 2000m) have been recognized as an important gap in the global ocean observing system (OceanObs09) and as being needed to better understand where heat is stored in the ocean, how deep mixing occurs, and why ocean climate models drift. An international framework is being developed for filling this gap, called the "deep ocean observing strategy". At the December, 2011 La Jolla OceanSITES meeting, it was decided to make use of the many existing OceanSITES platforms in deep water to make an "instant" contribution towards this need and goal. At this point OceanSITES moorings at over 50 sites already carry deep temperature/salinity (T/S) sensors. Support for this effort by OceanSITES has come from the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans and directors of oceanographic institutions. Support has also come from Sea-Bird Electronics. This has provided OceanSITES with a pool of SBE-37 T/S instruments available for deployment at OceanSITES.

OceanSITES is organized under the Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Oceanographic Commission (IOC), which is an intergovernmental body for coordination of oceanographic and marine meteorological observing and data management. OceanSITES is supported by a Technical Coordinator at the JCOMM Observations Programme Area office in Brest, France.

One of the strengths of OceanSITES is its ability to provide data to all users in a common format. OceanSITES participants agree to provide their data, in near real time if telemetered, and as soon as possible if internally recorded in moored instruments that must be recovered. They also agree to themselves or with the help of Data Assembly Centers (DACS) provide the data in OceanSITES netCDF format together with the essential metadata. OceanSITES data are then served by two Global Data Assembly Centers (GDACS), one at the National Data Buoy Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the other at Coriolis at IFREMER (Institut français de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer).

To find out more about OceanSITES, access OceanSITES data, or to join OceanSITES, please visit

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