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Ships of Opportunity Program

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July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007

Co- Principal Investigators
Dr. Robert A. Weller
Dr. Albert Plueddemann
Mr. David S. Hosom

Field Operations: Mr. Frank Bahr
Engineering Support: Mr. Geoff Allsup
Physical Oceanography Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Program Manager: Dr. Michael Johnson NOAA/OGP

Related NOAA Strategic Plan Goal:
Goal 2. Understand climate variability and change to enhance society’s ability to plan and respond.

Project Overview
Central to present efforts to improve the predictability of climate is the need to understand the physics of how the atmosphere and ocean exchange heat, freshwater, and momentum and, in turn, to accurately represent that understanding in the models to be used to make predictions. At present, over much of the globe, our quantitative maps of these air-sea exchanges, derived either from ship reports, numerical model analyses or satellites, have errors that are large compared to the size of climatically significant signals. Observations made using the IMET technology on the Volunteer Observing Ships on long routes that span the ocean basins are essential to providing the accurate, in-situ observations needed to:
1)    identify errors in existing climatological, model-based, and remotely-sensed surface meteorological and air-sea flux fields,
2)    to provide the motivation for improvements to existing parameterizations and algorithms,
3)    to provide the data needed to correct existing climatologies,
4)    to validate new model codes and remote sensing methods.

This project is managed in accordance with the Ten Climate Monitoring Principles.

The workstatement for the Ships of Opportunity Program is outlined in the following three tasks: A) VOS Field Operations, B) Instrumentation Development and Upgrades, and C) Data Processing. Previous VOS project budgets have included these three components but now it is more logical to provide details under these headings. We have reviewed our Ocean Reference Stations and Ships of Opportunity programs and consider the sum of those two projects. The VOS Field Operations will be reduced which permits us to concentrate on processing the data from the VOS for improved science and to address present meteorological sensor and electronics problems (to keep our quality and data return rate high) and to build toward the future where the Ocean Reference Stations provide upper ocean heat content in real time in addition to the surface meteorology and air-sea fluxes.

AutoIMET was developed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to meet the need for improved marine weather and climate forecasting. It is a wireless, climate quality, high time resolution system for making systematic upper ocean and atmospheric measurements. This interfaces to the NOAA SEAS 2000 (Shipboard Environmental (Data) Acquisition System) that automatically receives meteorological data (from the AutoIMET) and sends in automated one hour satellite reports via Inmarsat C. This system will document heat uptake, transport, and release by the ocean as well as the air-sea exchange of water and the ocean’s overturning circulation.

A) VOS Field Operations.

Ship selection and interface to the NOAA SEAS system was via AOML and SIO. We will focus our Ship program on two ships. The first is our longest running vessel, doing the Oakland -Hawaii-Guam-Taiwan-Tacoma run. The second is an Atlantic ship to complement the Barbados Ocean Reference Station. We understand the perspective of COSC on the return to this program per dollar invested in this effort and are reducing the field effort to provide improved analyses and science payback. At the same time, keeping two ships going keeps our involvement active and allows us, if we can prove value and if the budgets are sustained or increased, to ramp back up. The list of activities include:

- May ’06, Tacoma, WA: Craig Marquette and Frank Bahr met the Horizon Enterprise in Tacoma for a AutoIMET calibration turn-around. On the previous trip, SST had failed when the ship, in an emergency medical run, moved rarely-used equipment that entangled and parted our SST-> logger cable. Carrie Wolfe (SCMI) had repaired the cable during her XBT voyage, but SST failed again later, presumably due to then exhausted batteries from continued tries to connect.
- November ’06; Tacoma, WA: On November 18, Carrie Wolfe from SCMI and Frank Bahr from WHOI visited the container ship Horizon Enterprise in Tacoma, WA, a standard bi-annual  AutoIMET sensor suite calibration turn-around. Unfortunately, once on the bowmast platform, we found that the longwave sensor had been destroyed. It had obviously been hit very hard: not only was the longwave glass dome missing, but the mounting pins for the whole LHPS unit that longwave was part of had been bent.
- April ’07; Oakland, CA On April 11, Ben Hodges and Frank Bahr from WHOI visited
the Horizon Enterprise for a standard AutoIMET sensor turn-around. The ship’s officers had noticed that the wind readings appeared high. We found that the wind sensor was significantly misaligned. Its forward axis was rotated away from the ship’s forward direction by perhaps 30 degrees. It was also tilted away from its usual straight upward direction. This misorientation prevented the correct subtraction of ship speed from the relative wind measurement, leading to the observed high absolute winds. The sensor alignment has now been corrected.

- June ’07; Honolulu, HI: Craig Marquette and Frank Bahr installed an AutoIMET system on the University of Hawaii ship R/V Kilo Moana for the duration of the WHOTS buoy turn-around cruise by Al Plueddemann (WHOI). The system remained onboard until July 1st, and was then taken down and shipped back to WHOI by Sean Whelan and Jeff Lord.

- June ’07; Honolulu, HI: On June 18, Frank Bahr met the Horizon Enterprise in Honolulu, HI, to address a problem with the air temperature (AT) and humidity (HRH) readings. These channels had repeatedly dropped out when the ship approached Hawaii (and warmer temperatures), but had come back on line within a day or so of leaving Hawaii (when temperatures had dropped again). Swapping the AT/HRH sensors did not bring these readings back. Eventually, the problem was traced to a barely connecting fuse, which metal holder apparently slightly opened and closed under ambient temperature changes.

In addition to the AT/HRH prooblem, the whole AutoIMET data feed to the SEAS2000 system on the bridge had stopped shortly before Frank met the ship. It appeared that during repairs to ship’s gear in the focslehead, our power cord had been unplugged and replaced with a work light (both our plug and that of the work light were on deck close to the outlet). I hooked our system back up, and labeled the power cord. The Chief Mate had been following my progress with interest, and we went to the focslehead together where I showed him our setup.

Back on the bridge, AutoIMET data were now coming in to SEAS2000 “loud and clear”. The next day, I head from Steve Noah (NOAA, Seattle) that a problem with SEAS2000 XBT system had also cleared at the same time. I do not know how the two issues (AutoIMET and XBT) could be related, but the coincidence is curious.
- July ’07; Oakland, CA: On July 16 and 17, Frank Bahr met the container ship Horizon Hawk in Oakland to inspect the vessel for a new AutoIMET installation. The bowmast platform is very well suited for such an installation. The Scripps group has already installed a SEAS2000 system for XBT surveys, so a computer is in place to receive our AutoIMET string for broadcasts back to NOAA. A group from WHOI will visit the Hawk on September 21 for the new installation.

B) Instrumentation Development and Upgrades

This task will be used to address shortcomings in sensors and electronics. Design revision will cope with obsolete parts and cold sensitivities. These developments will provide improved operation of the Ocean Reference Stations as well as the VOS. A related development task is to start work on the technology needed to bring more subsurface data to the surface, telemeter it, and be able to show on our website the temporal evolution and anomalies of the upper ocean heat content as well as the variability in surface meteorology and air-sea fluxes. The list of activities include:
- Design, layout, and fabrication of prototype DS89C450-based ASIMET module main board with native Compact FLASH storage and wide temperature range operation. The fabrication of ASIMET modules has been transferred to Star Engineering of Foxboro MA; ongoing engineering/embedded systems support for Star by WHOI.

- Embedded hardware and software support for AUTOIMET ship system logger;
Major revision of ASIMET logger software to add Compact FLASH storage on existing DS87C530-based logger hardware in place of original custom PCMCIA FLASH storage; current revision is NEWLGR53-CF v4.10cf

- Major revision of all ASIMET module software to add Compact FLASH storage on existing DS87C530-based main board in place of original custom PCMCIA FLASH storage; current revisions are:
     VOSHRH53-CF v4.28cf
    VOSLWR53-CF v4.01cf
    VOSSWR53-CF v4.00cf
    VOSPRC53-CF v4.02cf
    VOSWND53-CF v4.00cf
    VOSBPR53-CF v4.02cf
    SONICWND53-CF v4.03cf
    SPN1SWR53-CF v4.10cf

- Ongoing revision and additions to instrumentation documents on the DGE website at; additional CDROM documentation for shipment with VOS instruments produced by Star Engineering.

- Software FETSWBD45 v1.01 for new Iridium Power Control board based on Dallas DS89C450 processor; used to cycle power to the IRIDIUM comms controller system, and condition power for the NAL Iridium modem

- Design, layout, fabrication and test of DS89C450-based power control and conditioning board for 2nd generation Iridium communications controller. Software updates for 4th (prototype) IRIDIUM Communications Controller – periodically collects data from SIM53 (ASIMET) Seabird inductive modem interface, processes it (averaging), formats and sends to IRIDIUM Modem as SBD message.

- Hardware fabrication and test of ASIMET-compatible interface between Seabird inductive modem communicating with underwater instrument string, and Iridium communications controller. Updates & cleanup to SIM53 v1.10 software for Seabird inductive modem interface module.

- Fabrication and test of 3 additional ASIMET sonic wind modules based on GILL sensor. Also uses updated SONICWND53-CF v4.03cf software for Compact FLASH storage.
Updated sonic wind module interface software GILWND45 Ver 1.41 for GILL sensor front end board.

- Update to sonic wind module main controller software SONICWND Ver 3.11 for the GILL sensor-based ASIMET acoustic wind module; for initial standalone test deployment on Climode buoy.

- Preliminary software design, VOSHRH45-CF v5.00 (for high-latitude versions of ASIMET board sets based on Dallas DS89C450 processor with internal FLASH program memory, and Compact FLASH data storage capability)
- Final calibration and prep for tension measurement module on 2nd CLIMODE deployment. Revisions & updates to TCELL53 v1.10 and TCELLIF v1.30 software for Climode tension cell module (for Climode 2nd deployment)

- Modification to software NEWLGR53 Ver 3.21 to for use on WHOTS project – cycle power once a day to standalone GPS logging module.
- Design, fabrication, and test of prototype SWR module based on Delta-T Devices SPN1 Pyranometer. Preliminary software VOSSPN53 v4.10cf for prototype ASIMET SWR module based on Delta-T Devices SPN1 Pyranometer.

- New or updated LinuxPC software to perform initial processing of binary files from various ASIMET instruments, data loggers, system controllers; also ongoing update of FLASH card reading procedures via Linux Laptop PC.

C) Data Processing

This task is to increase the effort on the analysis of the long-running Pacific VOS data set and the current Atlantic set. Effort will also be put into the analysis and public presentation of the Ocean Reference Site buoy data. This would involve computing air-sea fluxes on the fly in near real time, comparing buoy fluxes/met with ECMWF, NCEP, Lisan Yu’s product. This would also show departures of buoy flux/met from climatologies, and use anomalies from climatology as well as present absolute values to better project the climate variability record at each site. We have a vision of expanding this presentation in the future to show regional flux patterns from Lisan and regional ocean heat content from the Argo float data.

Note that descriptions, technical information and data from the several VOS being serviced is posted on the site: Figures are available for datasets from all ships. All AutoIMET datasets from the Enterprise (Dec 2003 to the present) can be downloaded directly from the web site as well. For the datasets from other ships please contact Frank Bahr at:

There is a link to the site: where there is detailed information on the AutoIMET and ASIMET modules. Instrument design questions can be addressed to Dave Hosom at:

Summary of Interaction with NOAA
The Climate Observation Program Workshop in Silver spring, MD was attended by Dr. Robert Weller, Dr Albert Plueddemann, and Mr. David Hosom. A poster entitled “Spatial Variability in Surface Meteorology from a VOS and the ECMWF Model” by Al Plueddemann, Frank Bahr, Dave Hosom and Bob Weller was presented.

There was ongoing cooperation with Scripps via the CORCIII program as well as Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC) of Southampton UK on Computer Flow Dynamics (CFD) for evaluation of the flow turbulence around the ship and its effect on the sensor placement. Some logistic support was provided by the Southern California Marine Institute (SCMI) on ship turnarounds. There is ongoing cooperation with the Atlantic Marine Ocean and Atmosphere Laboratory (AOML) in Miami on the Atlantic VOS program. There is also ongoing cooperation with many sensor manufacturers.

Last updated: August 19, 2008

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