Ocean Community News

U.S. IOOS QARTOD Project Publishes Three Manuals for Real-Time Quality Control of Data

The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Quality Assurance/Quality Control of Real-Time Oceanographic Data (QARTOD) project recently published three data quality control (QC) manuals that provide guidance to eleven U.S. IOOS Regional Associations, as well as other ocean observing entities who collect and provide oceanographic data to a diverse data-user community. These QC manuals establish written, authoritative procedures for the QC of real-time data and meet the requirements set forth in the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System (ICOOS) Act of 2009 (the reauthorization of this legislation is in progress).


To ensure each manual’s comprehensiveness, U.S. IOOS was fortunate to receive extensive reviews and input from subject matter experts representing national and international organizations within the ocean-observing community, including sensor manufacturers and academic institutions. U.S. IOOS also actively solicits feedback from operators (those who collect and provide data) who have used the manual as guidance for conducting real-time quality control for directional- and nondirectional-wave data, dissolved nutrients data, and in-situ current data. This feedback is incorporated as manuals are updated, which is done as technologies expand and resources permit.

The following sections provide more information about the preparation of each manual. To learn more about the U.S. IOOS QARTOD project, please click here.

Manual for Real-Time Quality Control of In-Situ Wave Observations Version 2.0.

This manual was originally published in June 2013 and contains 21 tests that operators who oversee the collection of data for directional and nondirectional waves can implement to ensure the quality control of their data. The update includes minor adjustments to general content, as well as that particular to waves.

A major challenge encountered when preparing and updating the manual was selecting tests to accommodate the broad variance in the requirements for real-time quality control testing for different applications of the data. Oceanographers from the private sector, academic institutions, and government agencies collect data for a variety of wave applications, including: weather forecasts and nowcasts that help to ensure safety and efficiency for commercial shippers, recreational boaters, and offshore construction of oil and gas or wind turbines; wave run-up and rip current forecasts; model verification/improvement and remote sensing techniques; and, the contribution to knowledge about the impact of waves on coastal erosion. The number of quality control tests conducted for wave data depends greatly on the purpose of data collection.

“The tests in this manual support a variety of wave sensors and operating conditions. Knowing the accuracy and resolution of the observation, which quality control parameters are applied, and the operating threshold are all critical for procedures such as safely navigating the larger ships into our ports or providing boundary conditions for inundation models.” according to Julie Thomas, a co-editor of the manual, as well as Executive Director of the Southern California Ocean Observing System and Program Manager of the Coastal Data Information Program at the University of California at San Diego.

The accuracy and resolution of each observation (or data point) are the foundation for products and services generated by data providers. Products that result from the collection and analysis of these data, such as forecasts of wave run-up and rip currents, are critical for protecting the public when weather events threaten population centers and also for navigation safety.

“As we approach the tenth anniversary of major Hurricane Katrina and the third anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, we are reminded of the destructive power of waves. Offshore wave measurements in both cases presaged the additional, and sometimes unexpected, rise of water due to wave run-ups that were added to the already destructive storm surges." said Richard Bouchard, a co-editor for the manual and a physical scientist with the NOAA National Data Buoy Center located at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Manual for Real-Time Quality Control of Dissolved Nutrients Data
The Manual for Real-Time Quality Control of Dissolved Nutrients Data covers nitrogen, phosphate, and silicate, which are included in the 26 or core variables for which U.S. IOOS is establishing data QC procedures.

Dissolved nutrients observations covered by procedures outlined in the manual are collected as a measure of water quality along bays or coasts in real-time or near-real-time settings. Coasts are defined as the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and territorial sea, Great Lakes, and semi-enclosed bodies of water and tidal wetlands connected to the coastal ocean. These tests draw from existing expertise in programs such as the Studies of Ecological and Chemical Responses to Environmental Trends, a joint effort by the California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Dr. Emilio Mayorga, co-editor of the dissolved nutrients manual, is part of the Pacific Northwest Regional Ocean Observing System (NANOOS), one of the eleven U.S. IOOS Regional Associations and is with the University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory. He says he has learned a lot in his role with the QARTOD project. “Helping to edit this manual has been rewarding, and I hope it can serve as a starting point for future tests that are more specific to dissolved nutrients," says Mayorga.

Another co-editor, Daniel Schar of the Alliance for Coastal Technologies and the University of Hawaii, is also enthusiastic about the project. “The manual helps to bring clarity and transparency to a data processing methodology that is too often a black box to data users,” according to Schar.

Manual for Real-Time Quality Control of In-Situ Currents Data
“This manual is perhaps the most comprehensive, specific, and mature of them all, and this upgrade is the first to address manufacturer technology advancements,” said Mark Bushnell, Technical Coordinator for the U.S. IOOS QARTOD project. “We're particularly grateful for the support of the vendors and manufacturers for giving such valuable feedback."

The in-situ currents manual is one of eight guidance documents for the quality control of real-time data that have been published by U.S. IOOS since 2012 and is one of three that have been updated. The original in-situ currents manual was published in June 2013.

Jennifer Patterson, Central and Northern California Ocean Observing System (CeNCOOS) Information Manager at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and Chris Paternostro, Lead Oceanographer at NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) served as co-editors of the in-situ currents manual. Both have extensive experience in the collection and analysis of currents data.

“The QARTOD manuals help us to ensure the data we provide is as accurate as possible. As the information manager for CeNCOOS (one of eleven IOOS Regional Associations), it is my responsibility to ensure the data we distribute is the highest quality possible. Having manuals that are developed by diverse groups of experts means that we can easily implement top notch data algorithms in a standardized way which improves our data quality and adds value to the information that we provide.” said Patterson.

During the manual preparation, U.S. IOOS was fortunate to receive extensive input from experts from national and international organizations within the ocean-observing community, including sensor manufacturers and academic institutions. U.S. IOOS also actively solicits feedback from operators who have used the manual as guidance for conducting real-time quality control for not only in-situ currents but other core variables as well.

According to Paternostro, “We worked hard to circulate the manual widely to those representing both the public and private sectors in order to make sure that the tests are appropriate for ocean currents observations. The tests have to be designed to help assure quality data coming from instruments in the field so operators can provide their data to benefit the community. We think this manual achieves a balance of stringent checks and usability, while the feedback from operators allows for future improvements.”

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