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An Introduction to Atmospheric and Oceanographic Datasets


The meteorological and oceanographic communities are confronted with many difficulties when performing research on physical processes. One major problem is obtaining detailed information on processes over the globe (particularly, over the oceans). No single nation has the resources to document the behavior of the global climate and the natural and human potential for altering it. To address this problem, the research communities develop experiments and programs which involve many nations. These international efforts allow different nations to participate and contribute to programs of global significance. Some examples of past, ongoing and future research programs and experiments include: International Geophysical Year: The IGY was the first of several international geophysical programs. The IGY spanned the period 1 July 1957 through 31 December 1958. Extensive observations for a wide range of geophysics including meteorology and oceanography were made at a worldwide network of stations.

Global Atmospheric Research Program: The GARP was designed to study the dynamics and physical processes in the atmosphere with the principal objective of extending the range of useful weather forecasts and understanding the physical basis of climate. The program spanned the period 1967-1982 and involved the cooperation of many nations. The GARP was implemented as a series of major observational and experimental studies.

GARP Atlantic Tropical Experiment: GATE was the first of a series of field experiments within GARP. The purpose was to study the physical processes in the tropical atmosphere, in particular cumulus convection, and their relation to large-scale weather systems in the tropics and the general circulation of the atmosphere. Seventy countries participated during the period June through September 1974.

First GARP Global Experiment: FGGE was the principal observational and experimental component from GARP. The entire global atmosphere was studied in detail for a period of one year (December 1978 - November 1979) by a wide range of organizations. There were two Special Observing Periods (SOPs; 1 Jan to 5 March and 5 May to 5 July, 1979) during which special observing systems were mounted and many additional meteorological observations collected. The data collected represent the most comprehensive set of meteorological variables ever assembled, and have been the basis of extensive research into atmospheric dynamics and physical processes leading to major advances in operational weather forecasting.

Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere Program: The TOGA Program commenced on 1 January 1985 and will be completed 31 December 1994. It is part of the WMO's World Climate Research Programme. The purpose of TOGA is to improve our knowledge of the tropical ocean/atmosphere system and its effect on the climate at higher latitudes. Critically important to the success of TOGA is the collection and archiving of data. These data will form the basis for real-time studies of the evolution of the tropical atmosphere/ocean system and the development of short-term climate prediction models.

TOGA Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment: The TOGA COARE field program is designed to provide data on ocean-atmosphere interactions in the western Pacific warm pool region. COARE has three components: one focused on the atmosphere, one on the ocean and one on the interface between these two systems. Some examples include studies on ocean mixing and energy exchange in this region. These data will allow researchers the opportunity to diagnose and model several aspects of the coupled ocean-atmosphere processes.

Monsoon Experiment: MONEX was part of the FGGE. It occurred in two phases: the winter of 1978-79 (Winter MONEX) and the summer of 1979 (Summer MONEX). It was part of the FGGE and was aimed at obtaining a better set of observations in the monsoon regions. (All the MONEX data is in the FGGE data sets. In fact, these are the best sources of MONEX data.)

Alpine Experiment: ALPEX was the last field experiment conducted within the framework of GARP. Data from the Alpine region have been collected and analyzed in order to understand phenomena such as lee-side cyclogenesis and the mechanisms for driving local mountain winds. The program was initiated in 1981 and is continuing. There was a special observing period in 1982.

World Climate Research Programme: The WCRP provides a framework for cooperation among nations. It has been in existence for about 10 years. Programs and experiments within the WCRP are directed toward advancing our understanding of climatic variations on a wide range of time scales, from monthly monthly-seasonal fluctuations to seasonal-interannual variations to decadal and century-scale changes.

International Geosphere-Biosphere Program: The IGBP which began in 1986 provides a framework for biological and chemical experiments which focus on understanding and prediction of changes in the earth system on time scales of decades to centuries.

World Ocean Circulation Experiment: Under the WCRP, WOCE has several objectives. These include: (i) developing models useful for predicting climate change; and (ii) collecting a comprehensive set of observations which can be used to validate the models and provide a basis for studying the long term behavior of the ocean.

Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment: GEWEX objectives are to: (i) determine the hydrologic cycle and energy fluxes by means of global measurements of atmospheric and surface properties; (ii) model the global hydrologic cycle and its impacts on the ocean and atmosphere; and, (iii) develop the ability to predict variations of global and regional hydrologic processes and water resources and how these variations are influenced by environmental change.

Earth Observing System: EOS is the major NASA contribution to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. It consists of (i) a series of satellites whose instruments will detect a large number of geophysical variables to study processes and monitor changes on the land, ocean and atmosphere; (ii) a Data and Information System (EOSDIS) to archive and distribute data and geophysical and biological products; and (iii) a scientific research program. It is the beginning of a comprehensive, global observing system with wide-band, high spectral and spatial resolution over a long time frame. The first EOS satellite may be launched in 1998 with new satellites every 18 to 24 months and replacements every 5 years. The EOS is projected to provide a 15-year series of scientific products. In preparation for the massive amounts of data which will be archived and disseminated, a number of EOSDIS have already been established (Appendix A). EOSDIS will be a state-of-the-art information system to foster rapid and easy access for users. EOSDIS policy specifies that all data and derived products be available to all users. Researchers in the U.S. and participating countries will pay only the nominal cost of data reproduction and delivery.

Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission: TRMM is a joint effort between the U.S. and Japan. It will test the feasibility of using active and passive microwave data, together with the visible and infrared, to derive rainfall amount and distribution between 35 degree north and south latitudes. In addition, some information about the vertical distribution of rain in thunderstorms will be obtained. TRMM seeks, at least, a three year dataset of monthly averaged rainfall. (As part of EOS, an additional TRMM package is proposed in order to provide a decade of continuous observations.) Data from TRMM will be used to validate climate models.

Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite: UARS will gather data related to the chemistry, dynamics, and energetics of the stratosphere. UARS data will be used to study energy input, stratospheric photochemistry, and upper atmospheric circulation. UARS will provide information which will be used to understand and predict how the nitrogen and chlorine cycles relate to ozone balance.

Table 8.1
Some Gridded Analyses from Research Programs at NCAR
SourceGridRegion PeriodUpdateVariables
ds027.0IGY NH 7/1957-6/59 daily   strato
ds102.0 IGY SH 6/1957-58 daily slp, z sfc,500hPa
ds103.0 IGY SH 6/1957-58 daily z 500hPa
ds106.0 IGY Tropics 6/1957-58 daily slp sfc
ds111.0 ECMWF TOGAT106 Global 1985-pres 6hrly u,v,w,t,z,rh tropo,strato
ds111.1 ECMWF TOGAN80 Global 1985-pres 6hrly pcp,tsoil,etc. sfc
ds111.2 ECMWF TOGA144x73 Global 1985-pres 12hrly u,v,w,t,z,rh sfc,tropo,strato
ds111.3 ECMWF TOGAN48, N80 Global 1985-pres 6hrly sens+latent
heat flux
stress, LW, VIS
19 levels
ds111.4 ECMWF TOGAT106 Global 1990-91 6hrly t,w,vort,div,q 19 levels
ds111.5 ECMWF TOGA 144x73 Global 1985-92 mon u,v,w,t,z,rh sfc,tropo,strato
ds302.2 MONEX  Tropics 5-7/1979   u,v tropo
ds302.4 MONEX  Tropics 5-7/1979   precip sfc
ds302.5 ECMWF FGGE  Global 1978-79  w tropo,strato
ds304.0 GARP DST 3 Global 5/1974-3/76     tropo,strato
ds307.0 ECMWF FGGE192x49 NH,SH 1978-79 12hrly u,v,w,t,z,rh sfc,tropo,strato
ds307.1 ECMWF FGGE  Global 1-3/1979 daily   
ds307.3 ECMWF FGGE 192x49 NH,SH 1979 6hrly u,v,w,t,z,rh sfc,tropo,strato
ds307.5 ECMWF FGGE96x25 NH,SH 1978-79 12hrly u,v,w,t,z,rh sfc,tropo,strato
ds307.7 ECMWF ALPEXGlobal spr/1982 daily   sfc,tropo,strato  

An Introduction to Atmospheric and Oceanographic Datasets
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