NOAA 99-5
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani, Dane Konop


The nation's most technologically advanced oceanographic research ship is about to embark on a year-long journey around the world to study the forces driving global climate variability, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today.

"Discovering the reasons for changes in our global climate is critical for protecting our environment. The Commerce Department's advanced research ship, the Ronald H. Brown, will enable the use of the latest technology to confront this issue and search for solutions," said Vice President Al Gore.

Ronald H. Brown, in its home port of Charleston, S.C., was outfitted last month with a new and powerful Doppler radar that will be used to study precipitation patterns and storm dynamics. The ship will depart NOAA's Atlantic Marine Center in Norfolk, Va., on Jan. 14, and head toward its first port stop in Cape Town, South Africa.

The voyage will bring together scientists from numerous institutions and several countries to study the forces that affect climate and cause global climate variability, from the microscopic atmospheric particles that can cool the Earth's surface by reflecting sunlight back into space, to the interaction of storms with the ocean, which can modify sea surface temperatures and currents. Much of the data collected will be from areas of open ocean where little or no data has been available until now. The data will significantly improve the computer models that scientists use to make more accurate short- and long-term climate predictions.

"Our research, technology development, and environmental data ensure a continuing national capacity to solve problems and respond to change," said Department of Commerce Secretary William M. Daley. "The Brown's cruise will bring together scientists from the United States and abroad to seek understanding of the causes of global climate change, and help policy-makers make well-informed decisions."

"With its Doppler radar and state-of-the-art capability to sample both the ocean and atmosphere simultaneously, Ronald H. Brown is the best-equipped ship in the world to handle the complexities of the projects that will be carried out during this world cruise," said Rear Admiral William Stubblefield, director of the Office of NOAA Corps Operations. "Research conducted aboard Brown in data-sparse areas will ultimately have a dramatic impact on our computer modeling capabilities to better understand the world's climate."

All projects will be led by NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. In the first project during the cruise, researchers will measure atmospheric particles and gases over the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. "The data we collect will be used to produce
more accurate estimates of the cooling due to atmospheric particles," said Chief Scientist Tim Bates at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, Wash. "Accurate assessments of the climatic effects of aerosols are essential to make responsible decisions regarding natural and human-induced changes in the chemistry of the atmosphere, and the effect of these changes on global climate."

The ship's second project, called INDOEX for Indian Ocean Experiment, is truly an international effort. The co-chief scientist of the INDOEX Steering Committee and cruise organizer of the European component is Professor Paul J. Crutzen, director of the Max- Planck Institut for Chemie in Germany, and a 1995 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry.

Subsequent projects on Brown will utilize the ship's Doppler radar and the most impressive array of atmospheric and near-surface oceanographic sensors ever assembled on a ship. One project will investigate how storms and their associated strong winds, sun-blocking clouds, and precipitation interact with the ocean to modify the sea surface temperature and surface current structures. Climate models must be able to capture these coupled interactions to successfully generate short-term forecasts of interannual climate variations, such as El Niño and the intensity of Indian Ocean monsoons.

Another project will focus on climate studies of cloud-radiation interactions, in conjunction with the Japanese research ship Mirai. Joint operations will allow scientists to make so-called dual Doppler measurements that will give a clear picture of vertical motion in storms, the single most important variable associated with storm dynamics.

Rainfall measurements from space will be "ground-truthed" by Ronald H. Brown in a project in which the satellite measurements will be compared against Doppler radar measurements taken over the open ocean by Brown. This will enable instruments aboard the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (joint U.S.-Japan) satellite to be calibrated.

Ronald H. Brown's mission will include port calls in South Africa, Mauritius, the Maldives, Singapore, and Kwajalein. The ship expects to end its mission at the end of November in San Diego, after servicing the network of moored buoys in the tropical Pacific Ocean that collect atmosphere and ocean data used to predict El Niño and other climate and weather phenomena.

Cmdr. Roger L. Parsons, NOAA Corps, assumed command of Ronald H. Brown on Jan. 7. The ship carries a complement of five commissioned officers, 20 civilian crew members, and up to 34 scientists. Brown is home ported in Charleston, S.C.

The Office of NOAA Corps Operations, composed of civilians and commissioned officers, manages and operates the agency's fleet of research ships and aircraft. All NOAA Corps officers hold degrees – many of them advanced – in science, engineering, or mathematics. The NOAA Corps is the nation's smallest uniformed service.

For information about the Office of NOAA Corps Operations and Ronald H. Brown, visit our Internet home page at
For information about the INDOEX project, see: