The oceans are driven by exchanges with the atmosphere across the air-sea interface. WHOI researchers are world leaders in making observations of the marine atmospheric boundary layer and ocean surface layer, using these and various other data and models to estimate air-sea fluxes. The X-Spar is a low-cost part buoy for air-sea flux measurements in remote, inhospitable regions of the ocean where bottom-anchored buoys are not feasible. It will be similar to the methodology used by WHOI Upper Ocean Processes Group, which uses a heavily-instrumented, bottom-anchored surface buoy mooring to derive estimates of wind, stress, sensible and latent heat exchange, precipitation and short- and long-wave radiation.
Once perfected and operational, we envision multiple WHOI X‑Spar buoys drifting through the Southern Ocean, as one example, with data being delivered in real time and distributed to interested parties world-wide over the internet (much as Argo float and Ice-Tethered Profiler data are now served).
Under WHOI and Eastman funding, we have designed the spar buoy mechanics utilizing inexpensive components (e.g. commercial plastic pipe), and purchased and adapted existing sensors, interfaces and telemetry protocols for data acquisition. We have so far built and tested the X-spar itself dockside here at WHOI; at-sea trials will commence in June.