NOAA 99-071
Contact: Jeanne Kouhestani

Research Yields Forward Steps in Understanding Global Climate Change

After a year-long voyage that spanned the globe, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Ronald H. Brown has returned to Seattle, Wash., with discoveries that will bring scientists closer to understanding the natural and human-made forces that help drive the world's climate.

"The scientific success of this voyage was the number of small pieces to the larger climate puzzle that were obtained," said Eddie Bernard, director of the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, one of NOAA's 12 environmental laboratories across the nation. "The scientists studied areas of open ocean that had not been studied before in such detail, which we hope will give us answers to the many questions we have about how natural and human-made forces affect our climate and, ultimately, the way we live. During the voyage, we also deployed instruments that will provide real-time data for better weather and tsunami forecasts."

"This past year has been a challenging one for Ronald H. Brown and its 20 crew members and four NOAA Corps officers. An around-the-world cruise is a benchmark in any ship's history, particularly when it occurs early in the ship's career," said Capt. Roger L. Parsons, NOAA Corps, who commands Ronald H. Brown. "Since its departure from Seattle last year on Oct. 13, the ship has traveled more than 55,000 nautical miles, successfully supported seven major NOAA and international projects, and visited nine countries. We have hosted 250 scientists from more than a dozen nations and 50 scientific organizations. By all accounts, the ship and its crew have been up to the task."

All but one project aboard Ronald H. Brown were directed by NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and its laboratories. Researchers discovered, for
example, that the Indian Ocean's monsoons have effects that are similar to the El Niño events in the tropical Pacific that have such a tremendous effect on the United States, but that monsoons and El Niño are not always linked, as previously believed. In a different experiment, preliminary findings show that air pollutants dramatically impact the Indian Ocean region (which until now, had never been studied), and a brown haze that covered much of the research area from the ocean surface to one-three kilometers altitude could indicate large-scale pollution transport that may be occurring in other regions of the Earth.

Each project had a different approach to studying the forces that affect climate and 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 was from areas of open ocean, where little or no data had been available until now. These data have the potential to significantly improve the computer models that scientists use to make more accurate short- and long-term climate predictions, that can help policy-makers make well-informed decisions.

Ronald H. Brown also deployed five real-time observational buoys that provide meteorological and tsunami data from the North Pacific. These data are available on the Web at: to supplement weather/climate forecasting and tsunami warnings for the U.S. West Coast. You can also visit for more information.

The two-year-old Ronald H. Brown represents a new era in ship design and capabilities. Ronald H. Brown provided researchers with one of the most technologically advanced floating laboratories in the world, with the most impressive array of atmospheric and near-surface oceanographic sensors ever assembled on a ship. The ship carries a Doppler radar similar to those used by the National Weather Service on land, and also has the capability to take simultaneous ocean and atmospheric measurements – essential to the study of sea-surface and atmospheric coupling and its effect on climate.

"Any long deployment is both physically and logistically demanding while at the same time exciting," Parsons said. "This year was no exception. Although a number of Ronald H. Brown's crew are veterans of previous NOAA circumnavigations, all aboard share in the satisfaction of knowing that they played a pivotal role in broadening man's understanding of the global climate, and in the ground-truthing of several scientific theories and technologies."

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.

Ronald H. Brown is homeported in Charleston, S.C.

Note to Editors: For information on each scientific project conducted during the cruise, visit the Web sites listed below:
Aerosols Characterization (Jan.14-Feb. 20);
INDOEX (Feb. 22-April 2);
JASMINE (April 7-June 8);
NAURU99 (June 15 - July 19);
KWAJEX (Aug. 24-Sept. 13);
NOPP Moorings (Sept. 14 - Oct. 23);