IOOS: Integrated Ocean Observing System
Oceans cover over 70% of our planet, yet very little is known about their biological content, physical systems, and how, both together and individually, they affect our planet. Understanding the affect the ocean has on weather, climate changes, and the ecosystems of the planet are of ever-increasing interest to the human population. Studies, experiments, and more are currently being conducted by various means, sources, and organizations. Due to the this vast amount of monitoring, a need has arisen to collect and combine this data into one common database that more than a few individuals and organizations have access to. In order to meet this need the Integrated Ocean Observing System, or IOOS, is currently being developed in the United States.
The need for a common database has arisen from the large number of ever increasing oceanographic studies that are being conducted. Many new experiments are being conducted on how the ocean affects our environment. This includes global warming and the study of whether or not “long-term changes in the oceans (are) naturally occurring, or…the result of human activities.”1 Without the knowledge of possible fluctuation of the ocean’s temperature and salinity (to name only two factors) over time, it is impossible to say if we are facing a serious rise in the earth’s temperature or if this is simply a cycle the earth undergoes every few million years. Scientists are studying “how shelf water is transferred at the continental shelf break to the inner basin” in hopes that this will provide them with the answers on arctic warming trends.2 Other scientists are studying how oceans store and transport “vast amounts of heat and fresh water around the globe” as well as how “the ocean and atmosphere exchange heat, fresh water, and momentum”3 in an attempt to understand how the ocean and atmosphere interrelate and work together to create a clean environment.
Another aspect of understanding the ocean’s function is tracking and following the patterns of El Nino and La Nina. By carefully tracking these climate changes over the years, it may eventually be possible to predict severe El Nino storms before they occur. One expert states that “the ocean’s response and indeed its active role in” the climate changes of current times remains “unclear owing in significant part to the lack of long records to quantify in the ocean’s stratification and circulation.”4 With this knowledge it may be possible to track how various human influences effect the environment and the general ecosystem of the planet. In order to study these phenomena a buoy was placed off the coat of Massachusetts, recording temperature data for over 3 years. A graphical summary of this data can be seen in Figure 1.
The data obtained in the experiment is now available in graphical form, years after the experiment has been completed. Yet experiments similar to this...