Lab 1.2 – Where are the OOI arrays located?

Fundamental concept: Recognizing the ocean basins and adjacent geography on maps in relationship to where the OOI arrays are located.
Preparation for: All labs
Estimated time to complete: 20 minutes
Materials needed: Optional large map to display for class or printable maps for each student

The ocean is not as well known as many people think .  It is common for ocean scientists to say that more is known about the moon or Mars than about the sea.  The Ocean Observatories Initiative chose to position scientific instruments in six locations in the oceans to expand our understanding of many natural phenomenon, including climate, the health of ocean ecosystems, the linkages between life and volcanoes, and the forces at work in the coastal ocean.  This series of labs introduces you to several of these locations in the ocean, and many of the types of data collected there.  Should you decide to become an oceanographer you may dive more deeply into the OOI data, since all the data is freely available to anyone. Here, we will explore where on the globe the OOI arrays are located and why.

Identifying features on maps

First, let’s review some basic geography and map reading skills.


In oceanography, it is important that when you are viewing a map or diagram, that you can identify key features.  The first step is to identify where the land or coast is and where the ocean is on the map or diagram.  You are probably used to seeing a map with streets, cities and other human-oriented features, perhaps even some topography for mountains, rivers, lakes and such.  Oceanographic maps are a little different because they emphasize features in the ocean.   Often the land is void of features or just a plain color, other times there are some land features as reference. When we are looking at features on the bottom of the ocean, and just like on land where there are various elevations above sea level, in the ocean we have different depths (bathymetry) that represent different features.  For example, instead of volcanoes, there are seamounts, instead of mountains there are mid-ocean ridges, instead of wide open plains, there are abyssal plains and instead of deep valleys there are trenches. You’ll learn more about ocean features in future labs (2, 3 and 4).  For now, let’s take a look at some different maps and identify some simple key featuresin the following the Quick check questions.


Now, let’s put your geography knowledge to work and take a look at the location of the Ocean Observatories Initiative arrays.


Map of OOI Arrays

Figure 1.2.1 Map of OOI Arrays

Orientation Question

  1. Complete the following table, identifying the ocean basin where each OOI array is located, and the nearest land mass. 


Array Ocean Basin Nearest Land Mass
Irminger Sea
Southern Ocean

(Note: This table is available in a fillable form within the LAB-1-student-form- refer to your instructor for instructions.)

Interpretation Questions

Use the map of OOI arrays and the table that you made to match the arrays to important ocean processes that occur around them.

  1. In the seas around Greenland water sinks to the seafloor and, over the course of about 1000 years, travels throughout the deep ocean basins eventually reaching the North Pacific Ocean.

a. What array is closest to the point where water sinks?

b. What array is closest to the end of the 1000 year circulation pattern?

  1. Another deep ocean water mass, called Antarctic Bottom Water, forms in the sea around Antarctica. Which of the OOI arrays is located closest to this point, so may give us data on how this water mass forms?
  2. If you wanted to study the differences between the shallow ocean on the east and west coast of the United States which arrays would have data from those locations? (Specify coast and array in your answer)
  3. The Gulf Stream is a major ocean current that travels from south to north along the U.S. east coast. What array is best positioned to take measurements in this current?
  4. Each summer, eastern North Pacific gray whales feed in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea and then in the Fall migrate southward along the coast of North America to their winter calving grounds in the warm waters around Mexico, where their calves are born. Which array(s) do they swim past during this migration?

Image of Eastern North Pacific Grey Whale migration route.

Migration route of the Eastern North Pacaific Grey Whales. NOAA 2015.


Application Questions

The Coastal Pioneer Array will be moving to an area between Cape Hatteras, NC and the Norfolk Canyon called the southern Mid Atlantic Bight (MAB) in 2024.  This region will provide scientists with opportunities to collect data on a wide variety of cross-disciplinary science topics including cross-shelf exchange, and land-sea interactions associated with large estuarine systems. This location also offers opportunities to improve our understanding of hurricane development, tracking and prediction, and offshore wind partnerships.

  1. Based on the following map, name the 3 large estuarine systems near the future location of the Pioneer array near the MAB?
  2. In general, why are there 3 different colored blues in the map representing the the ocean?
Map of the future (2024) southern Mid Atlantic Bight (MAB) Pioneer Array.

Map of the future (2024) southern Mid Atlantic Bight (MAB) Pioneer Array.