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Executive Committee

Operating Principles

Buoy types



Operating principles



1. This paper sets forth the principles and a set of operating procedures for the WCRP International Programme for Antarctic Buoys (IPAB).


2. Objective

The objective of the WCRP International Programme for Antarctic Buoys is to establish and maintain a data network in the Antarctic sea-ice zone (that portion of the Southern Ocean and Antarctic marginal seas within the sea-ice edge at the time of its maximum seasonal extent), using in situ platforms and in particular drifting buoys, in order to:

(i) Support research in the region related to global climate processes and to global change, and in particular, to meet research data requirements specified by the WCRP and other relevant international programmes such as SCAR;

(ii) Contribute real-time operational meteorological data supporting the requirements of the WMO/World Weather Watch (WWW) and WMO/IOC JCOMM;

(iii) Establish a basis for on-going monitoring of atmospheric and oceanic climate in the Antarctic sea-ice zone, in particular contributing to the aims of GCOS and GOOS.

The Programme will build upon co-operation among agencies and institutions with Antarctic and Southern Ocean interests.


3. Programme Principles


3.1 Promotes the development of an Antarctic buoy network throughout National Antarctic programme agencies, research and operational institutions, SCAR National Committees and other relevant bodies;

3.2 Co-ordinates the development and maintenance of an optimised observational network for near-surface meteorological and oceanographic data within the Antarctic sea-ice zone, using drifter buoys and other appropriate data collection systems;

3.3 Distributes in real-time over the WMO Global Telecommunication System (GTS) the buoy position and air pressure data from the network, plus relevant additional real-time data approved by the principal investigators for public dissemination;

3.4 Ensures that all data from the network are appropriately archived; and

3.5 Liaises and co-operates with other operators of buoys and data collection systems.


4. Observation Programme

4.1 Operational Area:

The operational area of the Programme is south of 55°S and that region of the Southern Ocean and Antarctic marginal seas within the maximum seasonal sea-ice extent.

4.2 Variables:

Buoy position, atmospheric pressure and (for those buoys in water) sea surface temperature will be collected as basic data. Some systems will be equipped to additionally measure other variables, such as air temperature, ice and/or snow temperature, atmospheric pressure tendency, wind speed and direction, snow and sea-ice properties and oceanographic variables.

4.3 Basic Network Density:

IPAB recognises the requirements stated by international environmental programmes (in particular, by WCRP and WWW) for a basic surface observation network with observational points spaced at about 500 km. IPAB buoy deployments will aim to achieve and maintain, as far as possible, this density over the operational area.

4.4 Duration of Programme:

The Programme is proposed as a long-term one, subject to on-going support from Participants.


5. Data Distribution

5.1 Transmitters:

All buoys in the basic network will be equipped with transmitters to enable basic meteorological data to be transmitted in real time (synoptic and asynoptic mode). As a preferred approach, data will be collected and located via a system (for example Service Argos) that inputs synoptic data directly to the GTS.

5.2 Coding:

Data will be coded in a form suitable for extraction of basic meteorological variables. Participants will provide the data relay service and the IPAB Co-ordinator with necessary information to decode these data.

5.3 Global Telecommunication System:

All relevant data collected by Participants should be inserted into the GTS.


6. Data Archiving

6.1 Operational Archiving

All basic data transmitted on the GTS should be archived by the Marine Environmental Data Service (MEDS) in Canada, as the IOC/WMO Responsible National Oceanographic Data Centre for drifting buoy data.

6.2 Research Database:

A uniform, quality-controlled IPAB database for ice motion, surface meteorology and oceanography, as required by the Antarctic research community, is maintained by the IPAB Technical Coordinator. This database will be constantly updated; updates will be annually submitted to appropriate data centres for archiving (in particular, to MEDS and WDC-A for Glaciology).


7. Management Structure

7.1 Participants:

Participants in the WCRP International Programme for Antarctic Buoys will include national Antarctic programme agencies, meteorological and oceanographic institutes, research and operational agencies and non-governmental organisations interested in Antarctic sea-ice zone studies and contributing actively to the Programme. Principal investigators or relevant buoy programmes may also contribute, with agreement from the Executive Committee, as Individual Participants. Intending Participants will indicate their contribution to, and involvement in, the Programme by means of an Expression of Interest or Letter of Intent to be submitted to the IPAB Chairman and copies to the Director WCRP. Expressions of Interest and Letters of Intent will be considered by the Executive Committee in consultation with the Co-ordinator and the accepted Participants will be notified.

The full role of Participants will be reviewed at each biennial meeting.

7.2 Management

The Programme will be co-ordinated by the Participants. The Participants will arrange for the implementation of the Programme within the framework of the stated objectives. On a biennial basis the Participants will elect a Chairman and Vice-Chairman and appoint a Co-ordinator. The Chairman and Vice-Chairman plus three other persons representing the Participants shall form the Executive Committee.

7.3 Executive Committee

The Executive Committee will be responsible for the management of the Programme within the guidelines set at the meeting of Participants, and will provide guidance and support to the Coordinator.

The Executive Committee will share responsibility with the Co-ordinator for encouraging participation in the IPAB, and liaising with principal investigators of individual buoy programmes and with international organisations. During inter-sessional periods however, the Co-ordinator will act as the focal point for matters related to the operation of the Programme.

7.4 Co-ordinator

Specific responsibilities and duties of the Co-ordinator are contained in Annex 1, Terms of Reference for the Co-ordinator of the WCRP International Programme for Antarctic Buoys.

7.5 Funding Provisions

The Programme will be self-sustaining, supported by contributions in the form of equipment, services (such as communications, deployment, archiving, co-ordination, scientific or technical advice) or monetary contributions. As necessary, the Participants shall establish a budget and make appropriate provisions for the management of this budget in order to implement the Programme. Other funding arrangements made between Participants will be recognised as contributions to the IPAB if they further the objectives of the Programme.

7.6 Programme Review

The management structure and operation of the Programme shall be reviewed at the Participants’ Meetings.


8. Meetings

A biennial meeting of the Participants will be held at a time and location to be determined by them.