Interdisciplinary oceanographic observations: the wave of the future

Tommy D. Dickey, Robert R. Bidigare
2005 Scientia Marina  
Oceanographic measurements, though difficult and expensive, are essential for effective study, stewardship, preservation, and management of our oceanic and atmospheric systems. Ocean sciences have been driven by technologies enabling new observations, discoveries, and modelling of diverse interdisciplinary phenomena. Despite rapid advances in ocean sampling capabilities, the numbers of disciplinary variables that are necessary to solve oceanographic problems are large and increasing. In
more » ... , the time and space scales of key processes span over ten orders of magnitude; presently, there remain major spectral gaps in our sampling. Thus, undersampling presents the main limitation to our understanding of global climate change; variability in fish biomass and regime shifts; and episodic and extreme events. Fortunately, recent advances in ocean platforms and in situ autonomous sampling systems and satellite sensors are enabling unprecedented rates of data acquisition as well as the expansion of temporal and spatial coverage. Consequently, improved sampling strategies will lead to a reduction in ocean forecasting error for predictions of a multitude of atmospheric and oceanic processes. Nonetheless, major challenges remain to massively increase the variety and quantity of ocean measurements and to effectively coordinate, synthesize, and distribute oceanographic data sets. In particular, numbers of measurements are limited by the costs of instruments and their deployment as well as data processing and production of useful data products and visualizations. Looking forward, many novel and innovative technologies involving computing, nanotechnology, robotics, information and telemetry technologies, space sciences, and molecular biology are being developed at a fast pace for numerous applications (Kaku, 1997; Kurzweil, 1999) . It is anticipated that several of these can and will be transitioned to the ocean sciences and will prove to be extremely beneficial for oceanographers in the next few decades. Already, autonomous, 'robotic' in situ sampling, high spectral resolution optical and chemical instrumentation, multi-frequency acoustics, and biomolecular techniques are being utilized by a limited number of oceanographers. Also, increased temporal and spatial sampling capabilities for expanding numbers of interdisciplinary variables are being accelerated thanks to both new technologies and utilization of data assimilation models coupled with autonomous sampling platforms. Data networks coupled with internet connectivity are rapidly increasing access to and utilization of data sets. In this essay, we review recent technological progress for solving some key oceanographic problems and highlight some of the foreseeable challenges and opportunities of ocean science technologies and their applications. RESUMEN: OBSERVACIONES OCEANOGRÁFICAS INTERDISCIPLINARES: NUEVAS TENDENCIAS. -Las medidas de parámetros oceanográficos son difíciles y caras de obtener, no obstante son esenciales para una eficaz conservación y gestión de los sistemas marinos y atmosféricos. Las ciencias marinas han avanzado a medida que la tecnología permitía nuevas observaciones y procesar modelos de fenómenos de diversa interdisciplinaridad. No obstante, el número de variables necesarias para resolver preguntas en el sistema marino es muy alto y el rango de las escalas de tiempo y espacio asociadas a procesos clave es de diez ordenes de magnitud. Actualmente todavía existen intervalos dentro de este rango sin muestrear. Por tanto, la falta de medidas representa la mayor limitación para un buen conocimiento del cambio global, y de las causas que provocan la variabilidad de la pesca, de los regímenes de las corrientes marinas y de los eventos extremos. Afortunadamente, los avances recientes relacionados con sistemas automáticos de toma de muestras tanto in situ como remotamente han permitido mejorar tanto la rapidez en la adquisición como la cobertura espacial. Estas mejoras en las estrategias de muestreo nos ayudan a reducir el error en las predicciones de procesos oceánicos y atmosféricos. No obstante, el mayor reto continua siendo por un lado aumentar la diversidad y cantidad de medidas, y por otro conseguir una coordinación efectiva que permita la síntesis y distribución de los datos adquiridos. En particular el número de medidas están limitadas por el coste de los instrumentos, del tratamiento de los datos y de los métodos de visualización de éstos. Mirando hacia el futuro, las innovacio-
doi:10.3989/scimar.2005.69s123 fatcat:lvqsp65ylfbqzkatphhrzkizne