Nearly half of the buoys in the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean array have failed
An ocean-monitoring system that extends across the tropical Pacific is collapsing, depriving scientists of data on a region that influences global weather and climate trends.
Nearly half of the moored buoys in the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array have failed in the last two years, crippling an early-warning system for the warming and cooling events in the eastern equatorial Pacific, known respectively as El Niño and La Niña. Scientists are now collecting data from just 40% of the array.
“It’s the most important climate phenomenon on the planet, and we have blinded ourselves to it by not maintaining this array,” says Michael McPhaden, a senior scientist at…NOAA. McPhaden headed the TAO project before it was transferred out of NOAA’s research arm and into the agency’s National Weather Service in 2005.
…Researchers from around the world will meet next week at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, to discuss possible solutions. NOAA has indicated that the agency will put additional resources into the program this coming year, but few expect that this will be enough to fully restore the array.
Wouldn’t it be a pleasant change if we repopulated Congress, the White House and relevant agencies with science-literate folks to a point where projects like this received adequate funding as readily as, say, subsidies for tobacco farmers or Exxon-Mobil?
I doubt if even a virtual sperm whale would be capable of holding its breath long enough to live to see that happen.