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(e.g., thermohaline circulation modification, sea level rise, severe storms, ocean acidification, depletion of fisheries, melting sea ice, etc.). At present, our ability to evaluate the probability of these risks is poor, which is largely due to the lack of intensive programs to understand the ocean’s role in climate and to put in place monitoring systems with advance warning capability.


Technical advances on a number of fronts promise to dramatically improve our ability to work in and on the ocean. However, progress is slow, and, at present, there is no concerted national effort—other than perhaps for satellite systems and some specific military needs—to develop ocean technologies that address existing and emerging societal needs.

Techniques for precise identification of species in the laboratory and detection of organisms in the field will be developed. This includes both genomic methods and other techniques which use the morphology, optical, and/or acoustic characteristics of organisms. Methods to measure the state of organisms (e.g., photosynthetic efficiency) will be increasingly important as we attempt to characterize the rates of change of key biological indicators.

Improved sensors for directly measuring chemical properties of the ocean will become available for key nutrients and tracers. As these systems become smaller and consume less power, they will enable a much more detailed understanding of ocean processes on small space and time scales.

Robotic platforms which conduct observations and simple tasks with little or no human supervision are being rapidly adopted. However, these systems are mostly ‘first generation’ platforms and much greater capability is possible. Over the next decade, new and more capable platforms will be introduced. Infrastructure for delivering power and communication to remote instruments and platforms in the ocean interior will enable a continuous, interactive presence in remote locations.

Tools for managing, exploring, and accessing data which allow sophisticated analysis of observations and the development of predictive systems will enable cross-disciplinary research. Physic-based models will become increasingly sophisticated, testable, and, at the same time, more accessible.

However, to achieve these advances efficiently and rapidly, more effective funding mechanisms are needed for ocean-science-driven technology and engineering activity.

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