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T h e  T A O  A r r a y

In December of 1994, the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) Array was completed. The TAO Array is a series of about seventy buoys carefully placed in the tropical Pacific Ocean. Each buoy has special equipment that records information about the water and the air above the water. All of the buoys work together, forming an array, to give scientists a big picture of climate conditions in the area. The buoys send their data to scientists everyday by way of weather satellites that orbit Earth. Since 1994, scientists have been able to watch the water and the air for signs of El Niño. Once they notice that the water is getting warmer, they can keep track of the other changes and help to make predictions about the effects of El Niño better than they ever have before.

It took many years of research and work to build the TAO Array, and each buoy in the Array only works for about a year. Of course, that's pretty good for a computer that gets left outside in the heat and rain! So scientists have to service the buoys constantly, cruising around the ocean from one buoy to another. But, so far, all of the work has definitely been worth it. We know more about the 1997 El Niño than any before. Plus, when the tropical water cools, and El Niño ends, scientists can study the ocean and the atmosphere and learn other things too. The TAO Array is not just for studying El Niño.

The TAO Array took over ten years to complete with countries around the world working together. The United States, France, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan have all contributed to the Array. Why? Because El Niño effects weather worldwide. For some, El Niño brings heavy rain and flooding. For others, extremely dry weather means not enough food and people starving.

The more scientists can learn about El Niño, the better prepared all human beings can be.

These resources offer the best information about the TAO Array and the technology that scientists use to monitor El Niño.

Tour of the TAO Project
From NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, the tour is a friendly introduction.

The Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Array
This is the complete collection of information about the TAO Array.

 
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