Studying Cloud Circulation in the Tropical Atlantic

A massive international effort using air, space, surface, and sub-surface platforms to improve climate models and weather prediction.

6 months

At sea


Saildrone Explorers

35,000 nm

Distance traveled

Access Data Set


A six-month mission in a productive region of the western Tropical Atlantic as part of NOAA's Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign (ATOMIC) and the European multinational Elucidating the Role of Clouds-Circulation Coupling in Climate field observation (EUREC4A). The goal was to understand air-sea interactions with a focus on mesoscale ocean eddies and their influences on atmospheric shallow convection and formation of shallow cumulus clouds.


The saildrone fleet coordinated with the participating research vessels, aircraft, and other autonomous observing platforms, enabling simultaneous observation of the lower-atmosphere and the upper-ocean with an unprecedented spatio-temporal multi-scale sampling

The researchers were using primarily satellite altimetry to identify surface eddies, but when they began sampling with the saildrones, they discovered sub-surface structures that did not have an imprint on the surface. The saildrones are particularly adept at measuring the layers between the atmosphere and upper ocean, layers that are not as easily observed by ship-based instruments.

“We’ll have a really nice matching on the dynamics of the ocean, how the sub-surface dynamics work with the surface and how the surface ocean works with the atmosphere, and also in terms of the biogeochemistry, CO2 uptake, heat uptake, and energy exchange. This is really important because it will help to improve not only numerical weather prediction models but also climate models and shed light on new physical processes.”

Sabrina Speich

Physical oceanographer at France’s Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique

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