Sustained Ocean and Coastal Observation

Research focused on the collection and analysis of observations of the ocean and coastal environment important for understanding and monitoring on a range of timescales, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and Atlantic. is includes the development and improvement of ocean and coastal observation platforms and instruments that biological, physical, and chemical parameters; studying the optimum configurations for observation networks; modeling, data assimilation, and diagnostic analysis of local, regional, and global data sets; and information product development.

There are two representative projects below:

  1. Simulation of the Argo Observing System by Kamenkovich (UM/RSMAS); and Z. Garraffo (UM/RSMAS and SAIC)
  2. Integrated Coral Observing Network (ICON) Project by L.J. Gramer, K.P. Helmle, M. Jankulak and D.P. Manzello (UM/CIMAS) J.C. Hendee, M. Shoemaker and J. Craynock (NOAA/AOML)

Representative Projects

Siumlation of the Argo Observing System

Kamenkovich (UM/RSMAS); and Z. Garraffo (UM/RSMAS and SAIC)

Long Term Research Objectives and Strategy to Achieve Them:

Objectives: To examine how well the Argo observing system determines the state of the global upper ocean, and to understand factors that control accuracy of the reconstruction of the oceanic state.

Strategy: To employ a suite of observation system simulation experiments (OSSE) in ocean general circulation models, to sub-sample oceanic fields in these experiments in ways similar to how the Argo float array samples the ocean, to quantify errors in reconstructions of the oceanic state, and to study factors that control these errors.


The aim of this study is to evaluate effects of the mesoscale variability on the expected accuracy of reconstruction of temperature, salinity and velocities from the Argo measurements and trajectories. For this purpose, we carried simulations of Argo measurements in: (i) a coarse-resolution global ocean model; (ii) a high-resolution ocean circulation model of the North Atlantic.

In coarse-resolution simulations, we have analyzed the expected accuracy of the Argo system in reconstructing such important oceanographic variables as temperature, salinity, upper ocean heat content and mixed layer depth. For each of the variables, the analysis is carried for the annual-mean values, the amplitude of the annual cycle, and the amplitude of the interannual difference. The results, which demonstrate an overall good performance of the simulated Argo system, but emphasize the importance of sustained measurements in the regions of strong advection.

The activities during the reported period have been focused on high-resolution simulations (1/8o resolution in latitude/longitude), which permit simulation of mesoscale eddies. We analyze and contrast simulations with and without mesoscale variability, and explicitly separate the effects of the time-mean and mesoscale-eddy-induced advection. The results demonstrate that eddies help to achieve more uniform spatial sampling coverage, but can also cause gaps in the coverage due to the dispersion of the floats. The resulting affects of eddy advection on reconstruction errors are complex, but moderate in the most of the domain (Fig.1). High-frequency variability in temperature and salinity leads to enhancement of the reconstruction errors, especially if the Argo sampling is carried only for a few years. Reconstruction of horizontal velocities from profiler trajectories is capable of detecting detailed multiple zonal jets (Fig. 2), but the reconstruction of the meridional velocities is significantly less reliable.

Figure 1. Reconstruction errors – the difference between the reconstructed and actual GCM-simulated values – for the seasruface temperature (SST, unit: degrees). The contour interval is 0.05K, the contour lines show the +/-0.1K line.


Figure 2.Time-mean zonal velocities at 1500 meter depth on a 1x1-degree grid: a) GCM-simulated values; b) values reconstructed from the float trajectories Units are 10-2 m sec-1. Locations with fewer than 5 datapoints (over the 9 year period) are masked (white). Topography is shown at 1500 meter depth.


Integrated Coral Observing Network (ICON) Project

L.J. Gramer, K.P. Helmle, M. Jankulak and D.P. Manzello (UM/CIMAS) J.C. Hendee, M. Shoemaker and J. Craynock (NOAA/AOML)

Long Term Research Objectives and Strategy to Achieve Them:

Objectives: To: 1) Facilitate in situ observations at coral reef areas, 2) integrate in situ, remotesensing, and other environmental data so as to better understand the physical and biogeochemical processes that affect the health and life cycles of organisms in the reef ecosystem, 3) compile ecological forecasts for coral reef ecosystems to help to understand them, and to aid in decision support for Marine Protected Area management.

Strategy: Construct and operate meteorological and oceanographic monitoring platforms near key coral reef areas; provide data archiving and artificial intelligence tools to facilitate the acquisition and integration of high-quality data from these and other reef areas worldwide; and, enable rapid science-based assessment of the physical and biogeochemical environment at these reefs. Such an assessment will enable better ecosystem-based management of resources.


Through continuous data collection, real-time monitoring, and ongoing research, ICON provides scientists and managers with data critical to understanding the complex physical, chemical, and biological processes influencing coral reef ecosystems. For the 2009-2010 year, the ICON project
has focused its efforts in two existing areas of research, and three new areas. Ongoing research topics are: (1) development and field verification of real-time inference models about ecological and physical events on the basis of integrated in situ and remotely sensed data; and (2) continued deployment of new, and maintenance of existing stations and in situ sensors, with emphasis on fieldtesting and integration of innovative sensor technologies. Research areas that are new for the project as of FY2010 are, (3) field and paleo-climate research on the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on reef building and loss; (4) analysis of long (decadal) time records of coral growth and physical environmental variables, for evidence of climate impacts on coral reef ecosystems; and (5) research on dominant physical forcing processes for sea temperature variability on shallow reefs. ICON/CREWS stations continue to operate at Salt River, St. Croix in the U. S. Virgin Islands (“SRVI2”) and La Parguera, Puerto Rico (“LPPR1”). This year ICON installed a new ICON/CREWS station in the Cayman Islands, working in close cooperation with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI). The new station, designated “LCIY2”, is situated just off the north coast of Little Cayman, adjacent to the Bloody Bay Marine Park. The station has now been continuously transmitting since July 2009, and these near real-time data are shared with both the Cayman Islands Weather Service and US National Weather Service (please see Fig. 4). A bottom plate was placed, and a new station pylon and suite of monitoring instruments have been configured and shipped to Saipan, awaiting final deployment of ICON/CREWS station “LLBP7” at a site in Laolao Bay on the southeastern coast of Saipan (15N, 146E) in fall/winter of 2010. Additional in situ reef monitoring stations continue to be jointly operated by ICON and the Florida Institute of Oceanography SEAKEYS project at Molasses Reef in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS); by ICON, SEAKEYS and the NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL) at Tennessee Reef in FKNMS; and by ICON and the AOML Florida Area Coastal Environment (FACE) project in Port Everglades inlet, Broward County, Florida. The existing station
at Tennessee Reef and that being deployed in Saipan both make novel use of 2G/3G cellular communications for increased bandwidth. The result of this innovation is a richer set of environmental monitoring data, delivered in a more timely and reliable way, than has been done on U.S. coral reefs to date. A further cooperative effort between ICON and the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) has continuously operated a Moored Autonomous Profiler for Carbon Dioxide (MAPCO2) buoy at the La Parguera embayment since January 2009. Combined with physical sensors deployed at the LPPR1 ICON/CREWS station nearby, this system providesboth extended and near real-time data, for modeling and process studies of ocean acidification and its
impact on coral reef ecosystems. Finally, data acquisition and collection procedures have now been normalized at all ICON stations, allowing near real-time quality assurance and archiving of ICON data by the NOAA National Data Buoy Center. This has now facilitated use of these data by the National Weather Service and other entities in numerical modeling and forecasts, and by the satellite research community in “match-ups” for remote sensing algorithm verification.

Figure 1. Corals deployed for repeat calcification measurements at nearshore patch reef and offshore coral reef off Key Largo. Due to unseasonably cold weather in the winter of 2010, 78% of the 36 deployed corals at this nearshore site died. Note that only one coral colony is still alive in upper right image. Conversely, just 5% or two (2) of the 40 individual corals at an adjacent site just offshore suffered mortality.

Research utilizing data from ICON/CREWS and SEAKEYS stations has progressed in 2009-2010. Biological monitoring of coral reefs at each CREWS and SEAKEYS site continues to form an integral part of the ICON mission, with both visual and photographic surveys, and beginning with this year, field experiments in the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico, throughout the year (please see Figs. 1 and 2). Furthermore in 2009, research into oceanographic and air-sea pro-cesses impacting the coral reef environment over time scales from hourly to interannual was under-taken by the ICON team. A coastal ocean heat budget modeling reef sea temperature variability based on air-sea fluxes and small-scale dynamical pro-cesses has been developed with promising initial results for SEAKEYS sites in the Florida Keys (please see Fig. 3). Development has also continued on the suite of data integration and ecological forecasting tools for researchers, with stable releases in 2009-2010 of both a MATLAB toolkit for environmental data analysis and ecoforecast model development, and of ICON/G2, an expert systems platform designed to implement ecoforecast models in a quasioperational mode. These tools combines station observations from instruments such as multi-spectral light, meteorological, ocean-current and hydrographic instruments, with data from remote sensors including NOAA GOES, MODIS, AVHRR, AMSR-E, TRMM and the WERA High Frequency ocean surface current radar. The resulting high spatio-temporal resolution, near real-time integrated data streams are used to predict conditions conducive to coral bleaching, to upwelling and other hydrodynamic events affecting ecosystem productivity, and to reproductive activities of corals and other reef organisms such as coordinated spawning. These ecological forecasts are then distributed via email to researchers, and Marine Protected Area managers, and to the public via the Web site Continuous collection of baseline data, combined with real-time monitoring tools allow scientists, modelers and managers to understand the processes that drive coral reef ecosystems and provide the necessary information to properly manage and protect these unique and valuable natural resources. Another ongoing collaboration between ICON and RSMAS and industry remote sensing researchers, is the development of a Multi-sensor Improved Sea Surface Temperatures (MISST) product, using optimal interpolation and diurnal warming models to estimate daily sub-surface sea temperature profiles on coral reefs. This project is funded by the NASA National Oceanographic Partnership Pro-gram (NOPP) for FY2010 and FY2011.

Figure 2. Thriving Pacific coral reef ecosystem within Laulau Bay, Saipan/CNMI, near the site of a new ICON/CREWS autonomous reef monitoring station planned for deployment in 2010. ICON monitoring activities at this site, together with those already ongoing at Little Cayman in the Caribbean, will provide insight into the environmental parameters dominant in relatively undisturbed, so-called baseline coral reef ecosystems.

Figure 3. Oceanic heat budget for 2003 at the SEAKEYS reef monitoring station on Sombrero Key Reef, Florida, with comparison to quality-controlled, hourly in situ sea temperature variability. The heat budget models sea temperature variability by combining in situ data with products from high-resolution regional atmospheric reanalysis, ocean modeling, and satellites. Turbulent fluxes are estimated with TOGACOARE 3.0a bulk algorithms, while a small-scale horizontal convective process – not previously reported in reefs of Florida or the Caribbean – is modeled using the scaling analysis of Monismith et al. (2006).

Figure 4. CIMAS researchers install monitoring instruments on the new Little Cayman ICON/CREWS station “LCIY2”.