Develop a coordinated, comprehensive
system of worldwide ocean observations to support a wide range
of societal needs.
Recent technological developments
have significantly improved ocean- observing systems. Satellites,
ships, and buoys collect many kinds of data on and within the
ocean, but these observations are not comprehensive. Gaps exist
in coastal, open-ocean, and seafloor data sets. In addition,
the federal programs collecting ocean observations are poorly
integrated. By improving the coordination of data collection,
storage formats, and dissemination processes, an integrated ocean-observing
system would provide comprehensive near-real-time information
on ocean and coastal conditions for the full range of users.
Such a system would improve weather forecasting, detect and forecast
oceanic components of climate variability, facilitate safe and
efficient marine operations, make U.S. ports more competitive,
and provide daily tactical support of military operations worldwide.
Marine ecosystems and living
marine resources would also be better protected if more complete
and accurate data were collected on ocean temperature, salinity,
and dissolved chemicals and nutrients that affect commercial
fish stocks, marine mammals, marine ecosystems, and coastal habitats.
An integrated system would make more accurate predictions of
natural hazards possible, allowing for mitigation of damage from
hurricanes, coastal flooding, icebergs, tsunamis, and seafloor
disturbances causing pipeline and telephone cable ruptures. The
advanced warning derived from observing systems and climate predictions
saved an estimated $ 1billion in California alone from losses
related to El Niño, which totaled $15 billion nationally
in 1997-98. Global ocean observations could even protect public
health by collecting the necessary data to understand the fate
of pollutants, pathogens, harmful algal blooms, and other health
hazards that close our beaches and shellfish beds. This system
would also support fundamental scientific research and enhance
public education and awareness of ocean issues.
- Current ocean-observation
efforts are limited in scope. For example, volunteer merchant
vessel observations are limited to shipping lanes; most satellites
can only make surface-water or very shallow-water measurements;
research vessels are limited to short-term, small-area observations;
and Navy data are not always publicly available. Where data do
exist, there are no mechanisms to fully integrate them.
- No clear mechanisms exist
for translating large-scale, international ocean experiments
into long-term, operational observation efforts, or for transitioning
emerging new ocean-observation technologies to operational use.
- Data from different sensors,
such as satellites, drifting floats, and buoys, do not share
commonalities in data format, access, and dissemination, and
cannot be rapidly integrated to serve the many different users.
- Expand open ocean-observing
capabilities to enhance sampling of the full water column. In
complement with satellite observations of the ocean surface,
this will advance our understanding of ocean circulation and
air/sea interactions to improve weather prediction and our understanding
of climate change, and support basic research, fisheries, and
- Expand and integrate seafloor
observation capabilities to improve basic knowledge of the Earth's
temperature, chemistry, and structure. This will support pipeline
and cable-laying operations, national security and research needs,
and improved disaster warnings from seafloor disturbances.
- Expand and coordinate coastal-observing
capabilities to include the full range of physical, chemical,
and biological measurements to support all coastal users.
- Encourage a strong partnership
among federal ocean agencies and their range of public users
to improve coordination in technology development and the management
of ocean-observation programs, resulting in an integrated, sustained,
national ocean- observation system with com- mon data standards,
formats, and dissemination techniques.
For more information
The Argo program is deploying
a global array of 3,000 instruments to observe the waters below
the ocean's surface. The Argo array will be a critical addition
to an ocean-observing system equivalent to the existing atmospheric
observation system; and in combination, these systems will collect
data necessary to forecast weather, predict phenomena that influence
global climate, and support national security and basic research