History of the GARP Atlantic Tropical Experiment

The purpose of the GATE experiment was to understand the tropical atmosphere and its role in the global circulation of the atmosphere. It was the first major experiment of the Global Atmospheric Research program, whose goal was to understand the predictability of the atmosphere and extend the time range of daily weather forecasts to over two weeks.

Gate ships
Canadian and American research ships in the harbor of Dakar before the third phase of GATE. From left to right: Canada's "Quadra," NASA's "Vanguard," the U.S. Coast Guard's "Dallas" (with tethered balloon), and NOAA's "Oceanographer." (Photo courtesy of J. Kuettner.)

The experiment took place in the summer of 1974 in an experimental area that covered the tropical Atlantic Ocean from Africa to South America. The work was truly international in scope, and involved 40 research ships, 12 research aircraft, numerous buoys from 20 countries all equipped to obtain the observations specified in the scientific plan. The operations were directed by the International Project Office located in Senegal. The Project Office staff was seconded by the nations involved. The Scientific Director was from the United States and the Deputy Scientific Director was from the Soviet Union.

An operational plan was developed each day based on the meteorological situation and each ship and aircraft carried out the plan. The data collected were processed by nations participating in accordance with an overall plan and made available without restrictions to all scientists in the world. Research using these data still goes on today, nearly 25 years later, and it is estimated that over a thousand papers have been published based on the data collected during this short period in 1974.

The experiment involved the world's best scientists, all types of engineers, technicians, pilots, ship captains, logistics specialists, computer specialists, as well as senior policy makers from science agencies and foreign ministries in a large number of countries. A high percentage of the individuals involved are still active and could contribute their views.

If you were involved in GATE, please join the discussion.

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