Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

David Packard Distinguished Lecturer

Autonomous components of the ocean observing system

Russ Davis, Ph.D.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Pacific Forum – 3:00 p.m.

In 50 years, ocean observing has moved from curiosity-driven single cruises and one-off instruments to sophisticated satellites and massive arrays of moorings and floats that support climate forecasts, fisheries management, and other societal benefits as well as basic research. Agencies are calling for technically advanced ocean observatories for science and observing systems to support ecosystem-based management, water quality, and spill prediction, and homeland security, all in the face of rising federal deficits and increasing demand for social and medical services. One approach to expanding ocean observations in the face of increasing ship and satellite costs and potentially declining budgets is expanded use of long-duration, satellite-linked autonomous platforms carrying miniaturized low-power sensors. This approach traces back to John Swallow's pioneering float work that led to today's Argo program. As the Argo array is completed, the focus for float work is on expanding measurement suites, primarily to biogeochemical parameters. Gliders are Henry Stommel's concept for expanding the power of profiling floats so they could sample at prescribed locations. Examples of recent work with floats and gliders will show their strengths and limitations and help define their role in ocean observing systems.