Marine Climatology

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Updated on 5 December 2023

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Marine climatology within JCOMM was addressed primarily within the Data Management Programme Area, and more particularly managed by the Expert Team on Marine Climatology (ETMC). A list of the ETMC meetings and reports is given in the Meeting section below. ETMC was responsible for the marine climate data streams, and the development of the Marine Climate Data System (MCDS).

Applications of marine climatology were also addressed by ETMC, in collaboration with both the Expert Team on Wind Waves and Storm Surge (ETWS) and the Expert Team on Sea Ice (ETSI), both of which had representation on ETMC. Applications dealing with fisheries were addressed jointly by ETMC and the WMO Commission for Agriculture. Following the WMO reform, marine climate applications are dealt with by the Standing Committees on Marine Meteorology and Oceanography (SC-MMO), and Climate Services (SC-CLI).

A number of notable activities related to marine climatology applications were initiated during the span of JCOMM as described below.

CLIMAR - Workshop on Advances in Marine Climatology

The first Workshop on Advances in Marine Climatology (CLIMAR-99) was held in Vancouver, Canada September 8-15, 1999, with the major objective to receive input for a new "dynamic" part of the World Meteorological Organization's Guide to the Applications of Marine Climatology (WMO-No.781), emphasizing new technologies. This Guide provides comprehensive documentation of knowledge and techniques in the processing of marine climatological data and details the diverse climatological applications in the service of the marine user community. An additional workshop goal was to foster the development of the International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS).

Based on the success of CLIMAR99, the Joint WMO/IOC (Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission) Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM), at its first session (JCOMM-I), agreed on the desirability of convening a second workshop (CLIMAR-II). The Commission also suggested merger of CLIMAR-II with a 150th-anniversary celebration of the Maritime Conference held at Brussels in 1853. The combined meetings took place in Brussels on 17-18 and 19-22 November 2003.

CLIMAR-II also followed up on the "Workshop on Advances in the Use of Historical Marine Climate Data" (Boulder, USA, January-February 2002). Major goals of that workshop were to create a timetable for enhancing in situ marine data; to develop a strategy for creating alternative sea surface temperature, sea-ice and marine air temperature analyses, including appropriate satellite data; to test models against the legitimate uncertainties in "reasonable" alternative SST and sea-ice analysis methods; and to consider strategies for the joint analysis of surface pressure and wind data, taking account of time-varying biases in the wind data. 

The CLIMAR Workshop series had by now established itself as the preeminent forum for the applications of marine climatology. Workshops continued to be scheduled on about a 4-year cycle, with the parallel MARCDAT workshops on a similar cycle, in between CLIMAR meetings. Encouraging submissions to the Dynamic Part of the WMO Guide to the Applications of Marine Climatology remained an objective for all subsequent CLIMAR meetings.

CLIMAR-III goals included review of ongoing developments in the flow and standardization of marine (meteorological and oceanographic) data and metadata under JCOMM, fostering and coordinating the development of marine (meteorological and oceanographic) climate data and products, including ICOADS. 

CLIMAR-IV looked at climate applications in a broader light, including highlighting the societal benefits of the applications of marine climatology, including for climate services, reviewing the needs of the scientific and operational communities for marine climate data and products, assessing the state of the marine climate data component of the global climate observing system, identifying gaps, and providing guidance on how to address them, and reviewing ongoing developments in the integration of observations across multiple observing domains (land - lower atmosphere/surface ocean - deep ocean - space).

One of the original objectives of CLIMAR, to contribute to the "dynamic" part of the Guide to the Applications of Marine Climatology, was realized through a series of special issues of the International Journal of Climatology based on the material developed for, and presented at, CLIMAR meetings. A list is here, with other key publications also shown:

  • World Meteorological Organization, 2003: Advances in the Applications of Marine Climatology--The Dynamic Part of the WMO Guide to the Applications of Marine Meteorology. (WMO/TD-No. 1081) (JCOMM Technical Report No. 13), World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, 246 pp. (pdf; 7.5MB); Correction to p. 213 (pdf; 19KB)
  • World Meteorological Organization, 2005. The Dynamic Part of the WMO Guide to the Applications of Marine Meteorology (Rev. 1)
  • World Meteorological Organization, 2011. The Dynamic Part of the WMO Guide to the Applications of Marine Meteorology (Rev. 2)
  • CLIMAR-II Special Issue, Int. J. Climatol.
  • CLIMAR-III Special Issue, Int. J. Climatol. 
  • CLIMAR-IV Special Issue, Int. J. Climatol. 
  • Parker, D., E. Kent, S. Woodruff, D. Dehenauw, D.E. Harrison, T. Manabe, M. Mietus, V. Swail, and S. Worley, 2004: Second JCOMM Workshop on Advances in Marine Climatology (CLIMAR-II). WMO Bulletin, 53(2), 157-159. (pdf; 1.2MB)
  • Kent, E., S. Woodruff, N. Rayner, T. Arbetter, C. Folland, F. Koek, D. Parker, R. Reynolds, R. Saunders, V. Smolyanitsky, S. Worley, and T. Yoshida, 2007: Advances in the use of historical marine climate data (Second International Workshop on Advances in the Use of Historical Marine Climate Data). Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 88, 559-564 (doi:10.1175/BAMS-88-4-559).
  • Diaz, H., C. Folland, T. Manabe, D. Parker, R. Reynolds, and S. Woodruff, 2002: Workshop on Advances in the Use of Historical Marine Climate Data. WMO Bulletin, 51(4), 377-380. (pdf; 690KB) (improved resolution maps: pdf; 2MB)
  • Diaz, H.F., and S.D. Woodruff (Eds.), 1999: Proceedings of the International Workshop on Digitization and Preparation of Historical Surface Marine Data and Metadata (Toledo, Spain, 15-17 September 1997). WMO/TD-No.957, MMROA Report No. 43, World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, 114 pp. (pdf; 9.8MB)
  • Freeman, E., S.D. Woodruff, S.J. Worley, S.J. Lubker, E.C. Kent, W.E. Angel, D.I . Berry, P. Brohan, R. Eastman, L. Gates, W. Gloeden, Z. Ji, J. Lawrimore, N.A. Rayner, G. Rosenhagen, and S.R. Smith, 2017: ICOADS Release 3.0: A major update to the historical marine climate record. Int. J. Climatol. (CLIMAR-IV Special Issue), 37, 2211-2237 (doi:10.1002/joc.4775).
  • Smith, S.R., 2011: Ten-year vision for marine climate research, Eos Trans. AGU, 92, 376 (doi:10.1029/2011EO430005).

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MARCDAT - Workshop on Advances in the Use of Historical Marine Climate Data

Following on the success of CLIMAR-99, and extending on workshops carried out by the WMO Commission for Marine Meteorology in the pre-JCOMM era (Kiel, Germany, 31 May-2 June 1994; Toledo, Spain, 15-17 September 1997), a parallel workshop was organized dealing specifically with the actual marine climate data sets. The first International Workshop on the Advances in the Use of Historical Marine Climate Data (MARCDAT-1) was held in Boulder, Colorado, USA, 29 Jan-1 Feb 2002. 

The primary objective of the first workshop was to build on the blend of the US Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (COADS) with the UK Met Office Main Marine Data Bank (MDB), plus with newly digitized data in the US and from other international partners.  The blend, encompassing 1784-1997, provided the climate research community with an unprecedented assembly of in situ marine data.  Sea surface temperature (SST) measurements were a particularly important topic.  Another key focus of the meeting was the work of the SST and Sea-Ice Working Group (SST/SI WG) of the GCOS/WCRP Atmospheric Observation and Ocean Observations Panels for Climate (AOPC/OOPC), as well as new NOAA initiatives in the SST area.  After SST, other crucial climate variables were considered (in priority order):  sea ice concentration and extent; nighttime and daytime marine air temperature (MAT); sea level pressure; wind. In recognition of its multinational basis, that workshop also agreed to rename the marine archive as the International Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (ICOADS).

MARCDAT-II (Exeter, UK, 17-20 October 2005) had as its themes: developing gridded data sets: combining/reconciling observations (includes understanding the observations, homogeneity, quality control and analysis issues); quantifying data and analysis uncertainties (putting error bars on the data sets; includes bias and bias-correction uncertainties, random and sampling errors); database development and access (technical issues such as observation and metadata database construction, adding more data, documentation, data dissemination, etc.); use of marine data in climate research (defining data requirements, assessing what we know about climate variability and change).

MARCDAT-III (Frascati, Italy, 2-6 May 2011) was particularly noteworthy, being hosted by the European Space Agency(ESA) Center for Earth Observation, in Frascati, Italy, in recognition of the complementary nature of satellite and in situ monitoring of marine climate variables. Within the general context of the workshop objective, three themes were identified for this particular meeting: Improving integration and promoting joint analysis of remotely sensed and in situ data, in the context of the GCOS and CEOS Essential Climate Variable (ECV) framework, and highlighting the ESA Climate Change Initiative; Improving the data management, accessibility, traceability, homogenization, and analysis of marine surface variables as part of the development of long-term global surface data sets—with reference to cross-cutting issues in land-based research; Initiatives seeking to capitalize on available advances in resolving data homogeneities and uncertainties, and in quality control—by making bias-adjusted and better-characterized data (and metadata) available directly to researchers.

MARCDAT-IV (Southampton, UK, 18-22 July 2016) had a particular focus on the role of ICOADS and applications of marine climate data, and in particular, the growing international ICOADS partnership, illustrating the importance of ICOADS as the primary in situ data set for surface marine observations.  Other topics addressed during MARCDAT-IV included data homogenization (benchmarking, bias adjustments, step-change analysis, metadata); quantification and estimation of uncertainty; data management, recovery and reprocessing (digitisation efforts and reprocessing of previously digitised data); reconstructing past climates; integrating In-situ/satellite data sources and consistency of the climate across domain boundaries (land, ocean, surface, subsurface, atmosphere). 

More information about ICOADS and the MARCDAT and CLIMAR workshop series is available at  

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IOGP/JCOMM/WCRP Workshop 'Climate Change and the Offshore Industry'

A workshop on “Climate change and the offshore industry”, co-sponsored by the Metocean Committee of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP), the WMO and IOC through the Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) and the World Climate Research Programme, was held at the Headquarters of the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, from 27 to 29 May 2008.

The main goal of the workshop was to provide metocean engineers with the most up-to-date information from leading scientists on the main climate change issues faced by the oil/gas industry. These include storm intensity and frequency, sea-level rise, sea ice extent, and a view on the relative importance of natural variability compared to climate trends.
The objectives of the Workshop were:

  • gather evidence on climate change, its emerging impacts on the offshore activities and review the evolving industry requirements for MetOcean services in a changing climate;
  • identify and prioritize key areas for future research and development towards the adaptation of the offshore industry and its MetOcean services to climate change;
  • strengthen coordination of existing and future research and development initiatives for better protection of the marine environment and increased safety and efficiency of offshore operations.

A summary, including recommendations from the plenary and breakout groups, is available in the Table below.

A second workshop - the IOGP/JCOMM/WCRP Workshop: Our Future Climate - Understanding the spread of physical risk for the oil and gas industry -  was convened in Sep 2018 as a 10-year follow on from the original workshop, hosted by the IOGP in Sunbury, UK, co-sponsored by JCOMM and WCRP as in the first workshop. 

Changes in climate have the potential to create significant disruption and uncertainty in the oil and gas sector. These include: 

  • cost impacts such as reduced plant efficiency from temperature rise and environmental impacts from the overflow of drainage systems from increased precipitation.
  • social impacts related to increased water stress and physical risks from, for example, increased flood levels, sea-level rise and changing storms patterns. Climate change can impact the communities and environments in which the industry operates. Stakeholder expectations around climate change (including shareholders and governments) are also changing and are likely to continue to change.

Understanding both physical risks and vulnerabilities of the oil and gas sector will help IOGP Members develop and implement adaptation strategies to manage the physical impacts of climate change. The objectives of the workshop were:

  • Raise awareness and disseminate knowledge related to risks, methodologies and approaches that help adapt to climate change
  • Improve confidence in the use of climate data by identifying its limitations and developing improved methodologies that reduce and quantify uncertainty
  • Understand the potential risk picture that climate changes pose for all aspects of the industry

The Executive Summary of the meeting outcomes is provided here. Based on the outcomes of this workshop, and the importance of the climate change issue, the IOGP recommended that another follow-on workshop be convened in 5 years.

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