Identifying, retaining and sharing of uncertainties in historic oceanographic records

Luigi Sinapi Rebecca Cowley Senior Experimental Scientist with CSIRO Oceans


Senior Experimental Scientist with CSIRO Oceans


Ocean observations are crucial for a host of climate and variability research and prediction activities, such as climate monitoring and daily-to-seasonal-to-decadal ocean and weather forecasting. To make best use of these data, it is essential to understand the uncertainty attached to each of the observations including accounting for changes in instrument and observing practices over time.

Up till now, oceanographic databases have not contained measurement uncertainty information, as these data were either not recorded or have been lost.

The International Quality-controlled Ocean Database (IQuOD) project, based on the well-known World Ocean Database (WOD) and, beginning with the temperature records, has several goals to aimed at providing value-added information to the WOD. These include application of standardised quality control methods to provide scientific quality control flags, correction of known biases and addition of uncertainty estimates to each data point. The first version of these improvements to the WOD are now public.

Estimating uncertainty for millions of ocean temperature observations can only be achieved by the time-consuming effort of research into institutional archives and literature. Moving forward, it is important to encourage the recording and inclusion of uncertainties and key metadata with oceanographic measurement data.


Rebecca Cowley is a Senior Experimental Scientist with CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Australia, and has been with CSIRO since 1997. Rebecca has a double degree in Chemistry and Aquatic Biology from Deakin University, Australia. Her first role at CSIRO was as a laboratory chemist, she has since developed many skills with various ocean instrumentation and data quality control and analysis.

Rebecca has extensive experience with collection, quality control and analysis of ocean observation data, including spending many weeks at sea on research vessels.

Rebecca leads the Ship of Opportunity program at CSIRO and is currently the Chair of the international Ship Of Opportunity Program Implementation Panel (SOOPIP) program. She is a member of the steering team for the International Quality-controlled Ocean Database (IQuOD) project.

Rebecca is married with three children and lives in Tasmania, Australia. She enjoys bushwalking, swimming and training her border collie to do amazing tricks.

With the Patronage of

Polytechnic University of Catalonia
University of Lisbon - Faculty of Sciences

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