The contributions of autonomous underwater gliders as an observing platform in the in-situ global ocean observing system (GOOS) are investigated. The assessment is done in two ways: First, the existing in-situ observing platforms contributing to GOOS (floats, surface drifters, moorings, research/commercial ships) are characterized in terms of their current capabilities in sampling key physical and bio-geochemical oceanic processes. Next the gliders’ capabilities are evaluated in the context of key applications. This includes an evaluation of 140 references presented in the peer-reviewed literature.
It is found that GOOS has adequate coverage of sampling in the open ocean for several physical processes. There is a lack of data in the present GOOS in the transition regions between the open ocean and shelf seas. However, most of the documented scientific glider applications operate in this region, suggesting that a sustained glider component in the GOOS could fill that gap. Glider data are included for routine product generation (e.g. alerts, maps). Other noteworthy process-oriented applications where gliders are important survey tools include local sampling of the (sub)mesoscale, sampling in shallow coastal areas, measurements in hazardous environments, and operational monitoring. In most cases, the glider studies address investigations and monitoring of processes across multiple disciplines, making use of the ease to implement a wide range of sensors to gliders. The maturity of glider operations, the wide range of applications that map onto growing GOOS regional needs, and the maturity of glider data flow all justify the formal implementation of gliders into the GOOS. Remaining challenges include the execution of coordinated multinational missions in a sustained mode as well as considering capacity-building aspects in glider operations as well as glider data use.