With the current stormy conditions a reminder that we are all subject to the whims of the weather, it is timely to note that today is World Meteorological Day.
It’s a day we remember how weather and water services from around the world, including the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), contribute to making our communities safer. This year’s theme is The Ocean, Our Climate and Weather.
Information from the ocean is a vital input for the weather and marine forecasts that support safe navigation at sea. The ocean also holds the key to predicting larger-scale influences on our climate.
But the ocean is vast, inhospitable and very deep. So how do we keep track of what’s happening above and below the sea?
How are the ocean and atmosphere connected?
Oceans cover over 70% of the Earth’s surface and have a close relationship with the atmosphere.
Oceans help moderate temperature by absorbing heat from the sun. They distribute this stored heat energy around the globe via currents.
Oceans also influence the weather. Climate drivers such as El Nino and La Nina, which are caused by temperatures in the tropical Pacific oceans, affect large areas of the planet.
Observing the state of the oceans and atmosphere enables us to predict the weather and detect how the climate varies and changes over time.
A global system of observations
Marine observations are gathered in different ways. Some come from equipment on board ships and others from equipment in the sea, such as buoys.
While satellites now give a wealth of information about ocean conditions, observations from the sea are still the only way to gather some types of data. They also help in confirming and checking satellite observations.
Meteorology is a global science. What happens in the atmosphere or oceans in one part of the world can affect the weather in other regions. That’s why the UN coordinates several programs that many marine observations contribute to. These are the Global Ocean Observing System, the Global Observing System and Global Climate Observing System.