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.
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.
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.
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!