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Regional Data Provide Global Insights

NCEI’s Regional Ocean Climatologies support climate change research

Photo of CTD instrument deployment in ocean
Courtesy of Officers and Crew of NOAA Ship PISCES; Collection of Commander Amilynn Adams, NOAA Corps

The climate of the Mojave Desert is very different from the climate of New York City. And just as land regions have environmental factors that characterize them, so do ocean regions. Scientists monitor and study the ocean’s condition and change around the world. NCEI has a suite of Regional Ocean Climatologies that provide detailed insight into the state and long-term variability of climatologically, economically, and ecologically important regions that substantially contribute to Earth and ocean climate change.

What is a Climatology?

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the term “climatology” defines long-term averages of a given variable, like sea surface temperature, over various time periods, usually spanning multiple decades. In oceanography, the term “ocean climate” is used to define ocean parameters averaged over a decade or longer. Ocean climatologies, global or regional, relate specifically to long-term averaged oceanic parameters—temperature or salinity, for example—in the entire world ocean or selected ocean regions. NCEI regional ocean climatologies are ocean climate analyses derived from the World Ocean Database (WOD). NCEI develops ocean climatologies for annual, seasonal, and monthly periods to perform scientific analyses while investigating interannual-to-decadal ocean climate variability using historical oceanographic data.

Driven By Data

Regional ocean climatologies are possible as a result of the increased volume of available ocean profile data in key areas. NCEI has eight high-resolution, quality-controlled, multidecadal regional climatologies with annual, seasonal, and monthly means for temperature, salinity, and other variables found in the WOD:

These eight key areas include some of the most economically and ecologically productive ecosystems in the world, and the data used to generate these climatologies spans many decades.

One of the important goals of regional ocean climatologies is to support ocean and climate change research. The ocean has a large heat capacity and because of this it requires more energy to make even small changes to compare to the land and atmosphere. This why the ocean plays an important role in Earth's climate over longer time periods. NCEI’s approach to building science-ready regional ocean climatologies connects data archiving and processing with research, opening new perspectives on understanding ocean climate change.