Development is described of a Comprehensive Ocean-Atmosphere Data Set (COADS)—the result of a cooperative project to collect global weather observations taken near the ocean's surface since 1854, primarily from merchant ships, into a compact and easily used data set. As background, a historical overview is given of how archiving of these marine data has evolved from 1854, when systematic recording of shipboard meteorological and oceanographic observations was first established as an international activity. Input data sets used for COADS are described, as well as the processing steps used to pack input data into compact binary formats and to apply quality controls for identification of suspect weather elements and duplicate marine reports. Seventy-million unique marine reports for 1854–1979 were output from initial processing. Further processing is described, which created statistical summaries for each month of each year of the period, using 2° latitude × 2° longitude boxes. Monthly summary products are available giving 14 statistics (such as the median and the mean) for each of eight observed variables (air and sea-surface temperatures, scalar and vector wind, pressure, humidity, and cloudiness), plus 11 derived variables. Examples of known temporal, spatial, and methodological inhomogeneities in marine data, and plans for periodic updates to COADS, including an update through 1986 scheduled for completion by early 1988, are presented.

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1 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Research Laboratories, Climate Research Division, Boulder, CO 80303.

2 University of Colorado/NOAA, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Boulder, CO 80309.

3 National Center for Atmospheric Research (sponsored by the National Science Foundation), Boulder, CO 80307.

4 NOAA, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, NC 28801.