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The Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System: Generic Lessons Learned in the First Seven Years of Operation (2001-2008)

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The Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS) was established in the summer of 2001 as a prototype real-time observing system that now includes eleven solar powered buoys with physical and optical sensors, four shore-based long-range HF radar systems for surface current measurement, operational circulation and wave models, satellite observations, inshore nutrient monitoring, and hourly web delivery of data. The observing system in the Gulf of Maine (GoM) is one of the most comprehensive and operational of the Integrated Ocean Observing Systems (IOOS) systems that have been established in the United States to date. It has also been a very successful system, with data returns routinely in the 85-95% range.

The Gulf of Maine is a harsh operational environment. Winter storms pose severe challenges, including high waves and the build-up of sea ice on buoy sensors, superstructure, and solar panels, and in summer its productive waters present severe biofouling problems that can affect the optical sensors. The periods of most difficult field operations often coincide with periods of greatest data value in terms of marine safety, search and rescue, and monitoring biological productivity.

The challenges of the Gulf of Maine physical environment were paired with the unexpected challenges of the funding environment that have been the hallmark of the turn of this century. Funding for the system has been chronically short and subject to the unpredictable fluctuations of the congressional appropriations process. The inadequacy and variability of funding has substantially hampered the operations of many of the Integrated Ocean Observing Systems, including GoMOOS, and has hindered technological advancements and maintenance measures. As a result, the design of the GoMOOS infrastructure is little improved from that developed almost a decade ago, and it has deteriorated with age, usage, and suboptimal replacement schedules. In the absence of an adequate and reliable funding stream, the system is fast approaching the end of its expected operational lifetime. Unless this trend is reversed, the system will no longer well serve the many citizens, organizations, and agencies that have come to rely on the data it provides.

In this article, we present lessons learned by the scientific and technical groups that have been responsible for the data acquisition of GoMOOS. We believe that these lessons are generic, rather than peculiar to the GoMOOS system, and that they have value for others who are embarking on similar endeavors. However, it is important to make clear that these lessons are from the perspective of the scientists, and that the views of others involved in complementary aspects of GoMOOS, including public outreach, fundraising, and providing data and products to the more general user community, are not represented here.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4031/002533208786842444

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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