Water And Oceanography

Oceanography in the 1990s

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Oceanography is a science which dates back many centuries where humans undertook sea voyages for the first time. The study of waves and other superficial parameters also dates back to the time of Aristotle. However, it was only a few decades back that oceanography was recognized as a branch of science belonging to the wider domain of Earth Sciences. In general, oceanography includes the study of ocean waves, geology of the sea floor, including plate tectonics, oceanic ecosystems, chemical nature of seawater and the study of ocean currents. Thus, oceanography is an intersecting field of science, which underwent a significant evolution during the 1990s.

In 1992, the NASA launched a specialized satellite called the TOPEX/Poseidon into orbit, which can monitor the current patterns of the sea. It has the ability to measure the sea level to a 13 cm accuracy, which aids the scientists to predict and model the changing current patterns of the ocean. The TOPEX/Poseidon satellite also became part of the main equipment used for the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), which started in 1990 and continued until 2002.

The WOCE was a part of the International World Climate Research Program, which was driven by two main objectives. One object was to develop ocean models, which can be used in climate models as well as to test the same after gathering enough data. The second objective was to find out how the collected data set represents the ocean currents' behavior and the ways to use the same in future predictions of the changing ocean currents.

The experiment phase started in 1990 and continued until 1998, while the modeling and testing phase extended into 2002. The WOCE also made use of specialized buoys, one of which is the Autonomous Lagrangian Circulation Explorer (ALACE), which has the ability to transmit its position each week after floating at a 1 km depth below the ocean surface and re-surfacing just to transmit the signal to the satellites hovering above. This can also be highlighted as one of the masterpiece technologies invented and used during the 1990s for oceanographic research.

Although many argue that the Kyoto Climate Protocol did not affect global warming to a significant extent, it can be considered as a bold step forward by many of the world’s developed and developing nations with regard to protecting the Earth’s climate. From the point of oceanography, the world focus toward more environmental protective measures and monitoring tools meant that there would be more support toward oceanographic research and therefore more substance to the claims and findings made by the researchers.

The year 1998, named as the International Year of Oceans, was another important milestone for oceanographic research, as the population at large started to appreciate and be more interested in oceanography. It may be right to say that many youngsters started to think of a career in oceanography from the interest generated around the world as they became aware of the importance of the field and its potential development in the future.

Thus, the 1990s can be described as a stepping stone for the fast-paced oceanographic research evolution, which can be seen in modern-day oceanographic research.

More about this author: Dr Pandula Siribaddana

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