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Ocean Surface Topography from Space
NEWSROOM
Anchors Aweigh! The Ocean as classroom
June 01, 2005

Hundreds of college students along with their professors got a first hand look at ocean topography and altimetry when Jason
PI Gustavo Goni came aboard their floating campus this spring.

This image shows the deployment location of the six drifters and floats during the MV Explorer transect between Cape Town and Salvador in April 2005.
Deployment location of the six drifters and floats during the MV Explorer transect between Cape Town and Salvador in April 2005.

Link to Full Res

Every semester the SAS MV Explorer takes approximately 700 students on a 100-day voyage around the world, acting as a
state-of-the-art campus for the Semester at Sea program. As part of an agreement with NOAA/AOML, the ship serves as
part of the voluntary ocean observing system. The agreement allows NOAA/AOML to send one oceanographer on their voyage
to deploy surface drifters and profiling floats in regions of the ocean that are critically undersampled. The oceanographer
provides lectures in basic oceanography and on the rationale and research goals of NOAA's Global Ocean Observing System.

Goni, an oceanographer with NOAA/AOML (Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory) in Miami, joined the MV
Explorer for the April 2005 voyage in the Southern Atlantic. During Goni's tenure, six surface drifters and six profiling
floats were deployed from the ship along the transect between Cape Town, South Africa and Salvador, Brazil. Information
retrieved from these instruments aids scientists in augmenting the number of observations from an area with very few
deployments, which in turn allows them to obtain key surface and subsurface ocean thermal and salinity data and surface
current information.

The 700 highly motivated undergraduate students and professors onboard during this transect took a one and a half hour
class on global ocean circulation, the NOAA observing system, and on NASA satellite applications to oceanography, given
by Dr. Goni. These students and faculty members also attended shorter talks about the procedures used to deploy the
instruments and helped with every aspect of their deployment. Everyone participating in the deployments learned about
tracking the movement of the drifters and floats in near-real time through NOAA's web pages.

This example from 18 April 2005 in the Gulf of Mexico illustrates the path of drifter data correlated with surface currents derived from altimetry.
This example from 18 April 2005 in the Gulf of Mexico illustrates the path of drifter data correlated with surface currents derived from altimetry.

Link to Full Res

The drifters deployed by the students on board are helping in the study of ocean dynamics in the tropical Atlantic as
they are used to validate altimeter-estimates of surface currents. One objective of the work is the investigation of
how the sea height anomaly field is linked to each current and countercurrent in the region.

Dr. Goni has arranged with the Volvo Ocean Race to provide them with near-real time surface currents derived from
altimetry during their 2005-2006 race beginning in the Fall. Altimetry data, along with atmospheric data, will be
emailed to the boats during the race.

Profiling float data provides temperature profiles in near-real time that are used to validate altimetry estimates
of tropical cyclone heat potential (TCHP) fields. This year the researchers will make use of the almost 2000 floats
currently providing data to begin making real time assessment of errors of the altimeter estimates in a global scale
for the first time.

The TCHP fields for the Pacific and Indian oceans will be provided to the Naval Research Laboratory Joint Typhoon
Warning Center (NRL-JTWC) for inclusion in their intensity forecast models as part of the NASA to NOAA research to
operational transfer of altimetry.

Additional information links:
Gustavo Goni home page at NOAA-AOML
Semester at Sea

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