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NATURE

Ocean-monitoring system proposed

Information gathered from satellites would be combined with ground- and water-based monitoring information to provide a better overall picture of the ocean environment   

May 18, 1999
Web posted at: 4:40 PM EDT





A national council made up of officials from the top 12 federal ocean agencies has released a report to Congress calling for funding for an integrated ocean observing system, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The National Ocean Research Leadership Council asserts that such a system would provide essential information on ocean-affected weather patterns, facilitate safe and efficient marine operations and ensure healthy and restored marine ecosystems.

The information collected by an integrated ocean system would be similar to the information gathered for atmospheric weather forecasting, according to the report, "Toward a U.S. Plan for an Integrated, Sustained Ocean Observing System." Information gathered from satellites, for example, would be combined with ground- and water-based monitoring information. Officials say the system would move ocean observations from a research-focused activity toward an operational system.

The report calls for sustaining current ocean observations, integrating new and existing observations and adapting this system to meet evolving needs.

"We currently have a sustained operational atmospheric observing system that has enabled us to dramatically improve atmospheric weather forecasts. We have invested in operational ocean observing systems in the Pacific that have enabled us to provide successful El Nio-based seasonal atmospheric forecasts. This report calls on us to take the next step and expand the operational systems to the global ocean," said D. James Baker, Commerce undersecretary for oceans and atmosphere.

A robust ocean observation system is vital to the success of naval operations and fundamental to our national security," said Rear Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, chief of Naval Research. "We have some of the most comprehensive ocean and atmospheric data sets in the world today, however, we continue to need even more sophisticated and timely ocean data to ensure safe operations and to optimize performance."

The leadership council sent a letter to Congress last week signed by almost 1800 individuals working within the ocean community.

"The letter demonstrates that the oceanographic community is committed to working with the Congress and the administration to implement an integrated ocean observing system and to advance our understanding of our greatest natural resource, the oceans," said James D. Watkins, Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired) and president of the Consortium for Oceanographic Research and Education.

The consortium represents 59 academic institutions, aquaria, non-profit research institutes and federal research laboratories working to promote the visibility and effectiveness of U.S. ocean research and education.

The report is in response to a request from congressmen Weldon and Saxton, who in August 1998 sent a letter to Undersecretary Baker and Navy Secretary John Dalton requesting that the National Ocean Research Leadership Council "propose a plan to achieve a truly integrated ocean observing system."

The NORLC consists of the heads of 12 federal agencies that are involved in funding ocean research policy. The agencies include the U.S. Navy, NOAA, EPA, National Science Foundation, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NASA, U.S. Geological Survey, Minerals Management Service, Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Management and Budget, U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Energy.

For more information, contact Joyce Gross, NOAA, (202)482-8360, email: Joyce.W.Gross@noaa.gov.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved



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