COVID Impacts Cause Critical Gaps in the Indian Ocean Observing System
April 22,2024

Janet Sprintall, Motoki Nagura, Juliet Hermes, M. K. Roxy, Michael J. McPhaden, E. Pattabhi Rama Rao, Srinivasa Kumar Tummala, Sidney Thurston, Jing Li, Mathieu Belbeoch, and Victor Turpin

Published in Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, March 2024

Observing and understanding the state of the Indian Ocean and its influence on climate and maritime resources is of critical importance to the populous nations that rim its border. Acute gaps have occurred in the Indian Ocean Observing System, which underpins monitoring and forecasting of regional climate, since the start of the COVID pandemic. The pandemic disrupted the deployment and maintenance cruises for the observational array and also resulted in supply chain issues for procurement and refurbishment of equipment. In particular, the observational platforms that provide key measurements of upper ocean heat variability have experienced serious multiyear declines. There is now record-low data reporting and the platforms that are successfully reporting are old and quickly surpassing their expected period of reliable operation. The overall impact on the observing system will take a few years to fully comprehend. In the meantime, there is a critical need to document the gaps that have appeared over the past few years and how this will impact our ability to improve understanding and model representations of the real world that support regional weather and climate forecasts. The article outlines the expected slow road to recovery for the Indian Ocean Observing System, documents case studies of successful international collaborative efforts that will revive the observing system and provides guidelines for resilience from unexpected external factors in the future.

Fig. Recommended design of IndOOS for 2020–30, including in situ measurements such as Argo floats, RAMA/OMNI moored buoys, XBT network, tide gauge network, surface drifters, and GO-SHIP surveys, as well as remotely sensed data (after Beal et al. 2020).

Sprintall, J., and Coauthors, 2024: COVID Impacts Cause Critical Gaps in the Indian Ocean Observing System. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 105, E725–E741,

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