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Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research (CICOR)

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argo float deployment

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The Argo Float program has been the largest single project within CICOR. Over the last twelve years WHOI’s Argo team, lead by WHOI scientist Brechner Owens, has worked in collaboration with partners at Scripps Institution for Oceanography and the University of Washington to meet and advance the program’s goal: To build and deploy the ‘Argo Armada’, a global array of 3,000 free-drifting profiling floats that measures the temperature and salinity of the upper 2000 m of the ocean. Above, researcher Connor Ahearn ballasts a Argo float in a pressure test tank. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

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» Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research (CICOR)

This is the final contribution to the WHOI Annual Report from CICOR. A 1998 agreement between WHOI and NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) established a unique center at WHOI for climate research: CICOR, the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Ocean Research. For over a decade, CICOR has drawn on the leadership and research excellence at WHOI to serve NOAA’s mission and goals.

With its founding agreement, renewed in 2001, CICOR served as a global and national resource for scientists and strengthened the relationship between WHOI and NOAA, enabling long-term research partnerships in key areas of climate observations and analyses, marine policy, seafloor mapping and harmful algal bloom research. CICOR served as a catalyst and incubator of ideas for collaborative climate, coastal and ecosystems research.

In July 2010 CICOR entered its one-year no-cost extension year, so while there was no new funding to CICOR for the current fiscal year, 57 projects with a combined balance of $2.37 million remained active in 2010. Since its inception CICOR has supported more than 188 research, education, outreach and program development projects totaling more than $61.76 million.

NOAA in 2008 replaced CICOR with a new multi-institutional, regional cooperative institute. The new WHOI-led institute, the Cooperative Institute for North Atlantic Research (CINAR), began in mid-2009, continuing the WHOI/NOAA collaboration. During the transition phase, funding for some projects continued via CICOR until June 2010 with a no-cost extension through June 2011. This allowed CICOR to maintain its administrative support and oversight of ongoing projects in the process of completing work funded under previous awards.

CICOR is proud of its contribution to NOAA and to WHOI. CICOR principal investigators  and WHOI researchers have deepened their familiarity with NOAA strategic goals for the region, and have strengthened collaborative relationships with NOAA officials and colleagues from other institutions to further these goals. CICOR scientists are actively engaged in ocean observing and regional coordination in the Northeastern U.S. and around the globe. CICOR sponsored a special ocean observing issue of The Earth Scientist, a journal of the National Earth Science Teachers Association.  Six of the fourteen articles featured research or resources funded by NOAA. The journal and the included two-by-six foot ocean observing educational poster were distributed to 7500 teachers in all 50 states and around the globe.

The strong partnerships between WHOI and NOAA are expected to continue well into the future.

Highlights of CICOR's accomplishments and contributions to NOAA and WHOI science
I. The Argo Float Program

By far the largest single project within CICOR has been the Argo Float Program. Over the last twelve years WHOI’s Argo team, lead by WHOI scientist Brechner Owens, has worked in collaboration with partners at Scripps Institution for Oceanography and the University of Washington to meet and advance the program’s goal: To build and deploy the ‘Argo Armada’, a global array of 3,000 free-drifting profiling floats that measures the temperature and salinity of the upper 2000 m of the ocean. This allows, for the first time, continuous monitoring of the temperature, salinity, and velocity of the upper ocean, with all data being relayed and made publicly available within hours of collection.

II. Ocean Reference Stations

Led by Robert Weller and Albert Plueddemann, the Upper Ocean Processes group at WHOI specializes in deep-sea climatological instrumentation and buoys, known as Ocean Reference Stations. These deep-sea stations, three of which are funded by NOAA, collect long time series of accurate global observations of surface meteorology and upper ocean variability in regions of key interest to climate studies. The observations provide a set of high quality calculations of air-sea fluxes of heat, freshwater and momentum which enable scientists 1) to describe the upper ocean variability and the local response to atmospheric forcing; 2) to motivate and guide improvement to atmospheric, oceanic, and coupled models; 3) to calibrate and guide improvement to remote sensing products and capabilities; and 4) to provide anchor points for the development of new, basin scale fields of the air-sea fluxes. These high quality, in-situ time series are the essential data needed to improve our understanding of atmosphere-ocean coupling.

III. Arctic Research

State of the Arctic Report:

Through CICOR NOAA has funded considerable Arctic research including the annual State of the Arctic Report that is produced by an international team of specialists, including WHOI’s Andrey Proshutinsky.  The report has been used to create the Arctic Report Card:

Russian-American Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA)
WHOI researchers Carin Ashjian and Robert Pickart have both been funded via CICOR for the RUSALCA program, which is a collaborative US-Russian effort to study the Arctic seas regions shared by both countries—the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Climate scientists think that these seas and the life within them are  particularly sensitive to global climate change, because they are places where steep thermohaline and nutrient gradients in the ocean coincide with steep thermal gradients in the atmosphere. The Bering Strait, the only Pacific gateway into and out of the Arctic Ocean, is critical for the exchange of heat between the Arctic and the rest of the world. Monitoring the exchanges of fresh and salt water as well as establishing benchmark information about the distribution and migration patterns of the life in these seas are also critical pieces of information needed before placing a climate-monitoring network in this region.

IV. The
US Office for Harmful Algal Blooms and Related Research
Over the last several decades, the United States has experienced an escalating and worrisome trend in the incidence of problems associated with harmful and toxic algae (commonly called "red tides"). Formerly few regions were affected, but now virtually every coastal state is threatened, in many cases over large geographic areas and by more than one harmful or toxic species. Impacts include mass mortalities of wild and farmed fish and shellfish, human illness and death from contaminated shellfish or fish, death of marine mammals, seabirds and other animals, and alterations of marine habitats or food web structure. These economic, public health, and ecosystems impacts call for coordinated, multidisciplinary research. The US Office for Harmful Algal Blooms led by WHOI Senior Scientist Don Anderson maintains a database of recent HAB activity around the country and around the globe.  Through the office and other research initiatives, Dr. Anderson and his team have taken significant steps to link their research with the predictive needs of coastal managers by combining observational analysis with the modeling by WHOI Senior Scientist Dennis McGillicuddy.

V.  The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS)
Quality Assurance in Real Time Oceanographic Data (QARTOD)

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) is a federal, regional, and private-sector partnership working to collect and deliver information about the ocean. To ensure a solid foundation for developing ocean observing systems, WHOI Information Systems Specialist Janet Fredericks (of the Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department and the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory) was funded by the NOAA Coastal Services Center, as part of the Regional IOOS, to implement  standards for data quality assurance and control  that have been developed as part of the project called QARTOD (Quality Assurance in Real Time Oceanographic Data:, part of an evolving set of methods for tracking, handling, and ensuring the reliability of the volume of data that will result from ongoing ocean observing systems. This innovative and ambitious approach to coordinating the data sharing will be necessary  in order to integrate the many planned and existing ocean observing systems.

Northeast Benthic Observatory (NEBO),
The Northeast Benthic Observatory (NEBO), is a project of the HabCam (Habitat mapping Camera system) group, a collaborative led by WHOI biologist Scott Gallager that developed and deploys the HabCam seafloor imaging system for monitoring and identifying seafloor life. The objective of NEBO is to produce information  for fisheries and marine protected area managers that will foster development of ecosystem approaches to management of fisheries stocks. Their unique approach and the HabCam system allows them to collect and rapidly analyze data with continuous coverage of large areas and high resolution (on millimeter scales) . In conjunction with the Northeast Regional Association for Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (NERACOOS), the group identify and quantify key types of organisms and seafloor habitat characteristics, using repeated measurements on time scales of weeks to years. This allows assessment of seafloor  species diversity and of organisms that live together and water properties over  large spatial and temporal scales. The NEBO data products are of direct utility to fishery and conservation scientists, fishery and sanctuary managers, and environmental policy makers and will be evaluated for their impact on management practices through socio-economic modeling.

VI.  Post Doctoral and Student Support
CICOR directly funded eleven post docs, five MIT-WHOI joint program students, twelve undergraduate summer student fellows, and also hosted more than six NOAA Hollings Scholars during the last 10 years.

Robert Weller, Institute Director

Last updated: June 8, 2011

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