Pirate attacks affect Indian Ocean climate research

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Abstract

[1] Pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia nearly doubled from 111 in 2008 to 217 in 2009 [International Maritime Bureau, 2009, International Maritime Bureau, 2010]. Consequently, merchant vessel traffic in the area around Somalia significantly decreased. Many of these merchant vessels carry instruments that record wind and other weather conditions near the ocean surface, and alterations in ship tracks have resulted in a hole sized at about 2.5 million square kilometers in the marine weather-observing network off the coast of Somalia. The data void exists in the formation region of the Somali low-level jet, a wind pattern that is one of the main drivers of the Indian summer monsoon. Further, a stable, multidecadal record has been interrupted, and consequently, long-term analyses of the jet derived from surface wind data are now showing artificial anomalies that will affect efforts by scientists to identify interannual to decadal variations in the climate of the northwestern Indian Ocean.

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