Physical characteristics and primary production: Upgrading and utilizing the ORCA buoy network and NANOOS

Investigators: Jan Newton and John Mickett (U. of Washington)

Oceanic Remote Chemical Analyzer (ORCA) buoy.
Oceanic Remote Chemical Analyzer (ORCA) buoy. Photo courtesy of University of Washington.

The ORCA buoy network (along with the Washington Department of Ecology, King County and other party’s buoy data and existing water quality cruises, where appropriate) was updated and used to document spatial and temporal variability in weather (sunlight, air temperature, and wind), phytoplankton biomass (chlorophyll) and hydrographic features (water column temperature, salinity, density structure, including the mixed layer depths and degree of stratification). These data were used to evaluate bottom-up control of salmon productivity. The data produced were also critical for constraining numerical models exploring the impact of stratification on bottom-up productivity.

This research activity has been successfully completed, and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) sensors and full weather stations with surface wind sensors are now active on three ORCA buoys in Puget Sound proper (see map). ORCA buoys also exist at Hoodsport, Twanoh, and Dabob Bay.

This effort was conducted collaboratively with efforts focused on ocean acidification (e.g., UW ocean acidification program) to ensure that marine carbon chemistry and pH were included in the suite of baseline physical attributes monitored in strategic locations within the Salish Sea. The physical data have been aggregated and managed via the online NANOOS platform.

Orcas Buoys
Locations of three ORCA buoys to be upgraded.