Influence of NDBC Buoy Design on Sea Surface Temperature Trends in the Coastal United States
Nickerson, Alexander Keith
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The sea surface temperature (SST) record is the one of the oldest climate records, stretching back to 1662. Since that time, voluntary observing ships (VOSs) have been including these data in their ship‘s log. Due to the sparseness of VOS data, moored buoys were created to provide data at regular intervals in order to provide a more continuous record with data collection unaffected by human error. The SST sensor in National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) buoys is inside a hull and not in direct contact with the ocean. Thus, the design of the buoy may subject them to additional biases from environmental influences. There are over 100 moored buoys maintained by the NDBC but only the 15 NDBC buoys with the most complete record were selected for analysis in comparison with VOS data within a 1°x1° box centered on the buoy. The Hampel filter was used to smooth the outliers without losing degrees of statistical freedom. Six of the VOS/buoy data pairs showed a statistically significant (p < 0.05) difference between the buoy and VOS records. Analysis of the SST record showed that there were many large (>= 10 days) gaps and non-physical anomalies (e.g. a 5°C change between measurements) in the buoy SST record. Removing the affected data results in a data set that is too small to use in effective climate analysis. In most of these boxes, the record will need another 10-15 years to be long enough for use in such studies, but in the more recently deployed buoys the wait will be much longer.