Moored Buoys of the
Tropical Atmosphere-Ocean Array
What is the Tropical
Atmosphere-Ocean (TAO) Array?
The TAO Array is a series of buoys deployed
as part of an international research program
supported by the United States, France and Japan.
These buoys help scientists learn more about how warm
water of the equatorial Pacific affects world wide
climate. The name of the array was changed to
TAO/TRITON on 1 January 2000 in recognition of
Japanese TRITON buoys which are now being used in the
western part of the array.
How many buoys are
This program consists of some 70 buoys, all
located within 10 degrees of the equator between the
Galapagos Islands and New Guinea.
What do they measure?
The buoys measure wind direction and speed,
air temperature and humidity, and temperature of the
ocean at the surface and at various depths to 500
meters below the surface. A few buoys also measure
currents, rainfall, and solar radiation. Data and
position are relayed by satellite to scientists
around the world every day.
How are the data used?
Researchers use the data to learn how to
predict future changes in the world's climate. The
buoys were first deployed to learn how to predict the
El Nino/ Southern Oscillation phenomenon. El Nino
events involve disruptions in the ocean surface winds
and the upper ocean temperature pattern. These
disruptions lead to seasonal climate variations and
changes in fish migration patterns in many areas of
the world ocean including the tropics.
The data are also made available to weather
forecasters around the world. In the tropics, there
are very few locations or ships that regularly report
the weather. Measurements of the observed weather
conditions that these buoys record and transmit
regularly are an essential ingredient in weather
How do the buoys help
Sea surface temperature is an important tool
to find many different species of fish. The buoys
provide this information to weather centers daily.
These centers, in turn, produce charts of sea surface
temperature and distribute them via radiofax
broadcasts to fishermen at sea or to your home
office. Knowing where to look for fish saves both
fuel and time.
Several nations have also successfully used
surface wind and ocean current information from the
buoys to help locate missing or overdue
The ability to predict future El Nino events
and to estimate the degree to which they will disturb
the ocean can help fishermen plan their operations in
Are the buoys drifting?
No! Each buoy in the Array is securely
anchored by steel cable and deployed with a short
scope. They are under a great deal of tension and, if
lifted out of the water, are dangerous to you and
Advice to Fishermen
- DO keep watch for the buoys at sea;
they should be visible on radar and can be
- DON'T moor to, damage, or destroy
any part of the buoys. They provide valuable
information to many communities, including
- The buoys may attract fish: although it
may be tempting, DON'T deploy gear around or
near to the buoys.
- If your gear tangles with the buoy,
DON'T damage or cut the buoy to retrieve
Longline fishing gear entangled in a TAO
For more information, contact NDBC.