NOAA'S Adopt A Drifter Program

DBCP global drifter 1250

Photos & Videos

Track Your Drifter

Schools and Teachers:
DBCP global drifter 1250

Sept 18, 2005 - Feb 21, 2007


The Data Buoy Cooperation Panel (DBCP) achieved a major milestone on 18 September 2005. The DBCP deployed Global Drifter 1250 near Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia. With this deployment, the global drifting buoy array achieved its initial design goal of 1250 buoys in sustained service, and has become the first component of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) to be completed. This was an accomplishment worth celebrating. It took 10 years to reach this milestone from the time that the international community began implementation of GOOS with publication of the Scientific Design for the Common Module of the Global Ocean Observing System and the Global Climate Observing System in 1995. This special ceremony was held aboard the Tall Ship Silva near Halifax, Nova Scotia in association with JCOMM-II to commemorate this historic event.


The global drifting buoy array is one component of the Global Ocean Observing System that is being implemented worldwide by the JCOMM Members/Member States. The Global Ocean Observing System combines measurements from drifting and moored data buoys, profiling floats, tide gauge stations, ship based systems, and satellites to monitor the changing state of the ocean in near-real-time. The System has been designed primarily to meet climate requirements, but it also supports weather prediction, global and coastal ocean prediction, marine hazards warning, transportation, marine environment and ecosystem monitoring, naval applications, and many other non-climate uses.

The Global Ocean Observing System is truly a “system of systems.” Each system brings its unique strengths and limitations. No single system can do the job by itself. They are interdependent and together they build the whole. Most of the individual systems serve multiple purposes. The drifting buoys measure ocean temperature, surface currents, wind, and atmospheric pressure over the ocean. The drifters provide the primary calibration system, or “ground truth,” for satellite measurements of sea surface temperature, which are essential for climate, weather, and storm prediction. Drifting buoys are deployed on the high seas by ships of opportunity. The voluntary service of these commercial freighters, tankers, and other ships transiting the global oceans is an essential component of the system of systems.

The scientific design for the global surface drifting buoy array calls for 1250 buoys to be maintained worldwide. The number 1250 is based on the requirement for buoy measurement of sea surface temperature in combination with satellite measurements. One buoy is needed approximately every 500 kilometres over the entire global ocean to calibrate the satellites. If the global ocean is conceptually divided into 500x500 kilometre square boxes, it takes 1250 boxes to cover the ocean. One buoy in each box equals 1250 buoys. The countries participating in the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel of JCOMM have been working for 10 years to collectively build up the resources necessary to maintain 1250 buoys in sustained service. The ceremonial deployment of Global Drifter 1250 will symbolize filling of the final 500x500 kilometre box.