Although most drifting buoys start their journeys with a crude send-off—usually heaved into the ocean from the stern of a moving ship—NOAA oceanographer Rick Lumpkin describes today's drifter as "a high-tech message in a bottle."  Insignificant on their own, but an army of drifters 1,000 strong patrols the world's oceans and records key data for climate monitoring and research.

To better understand the effects of the ocean on global climate and weather, scientists from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, or PMEL, deployed an Ocean Climate Station mooring - an...