Arctic Buoy Decline

There has been a sharp decline in the number of Arctic buoys reporting temperature measurements to the global synoptic weather network the last couple of years, as compared to the previous several years. Below are comparisons of synoptic temperature observations for 1200 Universal Time Coordinates (UTC) on January 1 for each year from 2019 back to 2015 for the Arctic Ocean area. The first set of maps below, Figures 1 through 5,  are standard plots of weather data, including temperature (upper left from station circle), from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Prediction Center (WPC) for the southwestern portion of the Arctic Ocean.  Notice the increasing number of open ocean buoys reporting going back each year.  Click on any of the maps to see the full size image.

Figure 1. Synoptic weather observations for 2019 January 1 at 1200 UTC.

Figure 2. Synoptic weather observations for 2018 January 1 at 1200 UTC.

Figure 3. Synoptic weather observations for 2017 January 1 at 1200 UTC.

Figure 4. Synoptic weather observations for 2016 January 1 at 1200 UTC.

Figure 5. Synoptic weather observations for 2015 January 1 at 1200 UTC.

The next set of maps, Figures 6 through 10, show plots of synoptic temperature observations from OGIMET for the entire Arctic Ocean area for January 1 at 1200 UTC for each year from  2019 back to 2015.  Again notice the increasing number of temperature observations from the open Arctic Ocean going back each year.    Click on any of the maps to see the full size image.

Figure 6. Synoptic temperature observations for 2019 January 1 at 1200 UTC for the Arctic Ocean.

Figure 7. Synoptic temperature observations for 2018 January 1 at 1200 UTC for the Arctic Ocean.

Figure 8. Synoptic temperature observations for 2017 January 1 at 1200 UTC for the Arctic Ocean.

Figure 9. Synoptic temperature observations for 2016 January 1 at 1200 UTC for the Arctic Ocean.

Figure 10. Synoptic temperature observations for 2015 January 1 at 1200 UTC for the Arctic Ocean.

Oddly, the most recent International Arctic Buoy Program (IABP) map for 2018 December 27 shows numerous buoys reporting air temperature from the Arctic Ocean area as seen in Figure 11 below.

Figure 11. IABP map of air temperature observations for 2018 December 27.

Why the temperature measurements from these buoys are not being reported to the global synoptic weather network is puzzling, especially considering that much of the recent global warming has been occurring primarily in the winter night-time Arctic area.  I am also not certain whether any of these buoy measurements are being ingested into global weather models and associated reanalyses, separately from synoptic weather data.  It would be a shame if they are not.

The IABP also provides data and graphs of data from the Arctic Buoys here.   In the past I have compared the detailed buoy measurements from IABP to OGIMET plotted synoptic observations and code that were reported from some of the buoys.  I found that in some cases the IABP reported “surface temperature” from underneath the hull of the buoy was being erroneously reported in the synoptic data as “air temperature”.  Graphs of the IABP data indicate that the “surface temperature” (which is typically from ice or water beneath the buoy) is often substantially different than the “air temperature” when both are reported.  I also found flat-lined air temperatures and air temperatures that did not match well with those from nearby buoys in both data sets.  But these are different problems to investigate for another day.

Happy New Year!

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4 responses to “Arctic Buoy Decline

  1. considering that much of the recent global warming has been occurring primarily in the winter night-time Arctic area.

    Is that global warming? Given known ice thermal-insulation properties, the winter-dark-Arctic atmospheric heat is primarily targeted for outgoing longwave radiation to space regardless of the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. I would call that global cooling. That winter heat in the Arctic is energy lost to the system, and hence a planetary cooling mechanism.

    • Javier, the high Arctic winter surface temperature anomalies have kept the global anomalies slightly higher than they would be without them. But on the other hand, the overall global surface temperature anomalies have been trending downward over the last couple of years, so I think you may be correct that the high Arctic anomalies could be a sign of energy loss in the system.

      • Ah, yes. We are biased to see in the evidence what we want to see, and climatologists want to see warming. They don’t get past the numbers to what they mean in climatological terms.

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