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50 Years of Ocean Discovery: National Science Foundation 1950—2000
supported by NSF, the Navy, NOAA, and NASA. I started my physics career supported by the Air Force, then my ocean career was supported by the Navy, then NSF, then I worked for NOAA in the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory. This is where I learned the difference in approaches in funding—NSF being peer review and results-oriented, while the Navy is willing to take longer chances with instrumentation projects that would not have survived peer review. All of this support for the oceans community has led to phenomenal new understanding of physical, chemical, and biological processes in the sea. As Administrator of NOAA, and as the first administrator who worked as a scientist in the agency, I've had a special interest in the practical application of science and technology to better observations, and a unique view of all of these changes.
This past year has been declared the International Year of the Ocean. At the beginning, several of us met and asked how we could get more attention to oceans issues—more than just posters. We ended up doing a lot of things, including the National Ocean Conference where the President announced a special focus on ocean observations. He is the first President to do so. If we think back to President Kennedy and his 1962 announcement about GARP and geostationary satellites, we can see how important this is. Today, the geostationary satellites operated by NOAA are fundamental to our observing system. Hopefully, the initial commitment by President Clinton is a down payment on a fully operational ocean observing system. The first step will be full deployment of ARGO, together with satellite altimeter and scatterometer systems, and data assimilation and modeling. These contributions to GODAE and CLIVAR will provide the information we need to make available real practical applications of ocean understanding. In fact, I can note that the latest development in operational oceanography is wave forecasts for surfers—an application of the ideas of Walter Munk and his colleagues during World War II now being used today in a very different mode.
Physical oceanography is not the only side of this issue. I believe that changing ocean chemistry is as great or greater a human public concern than changing atmospheric chemistry leading to global warming. We're just starting to see this, as we experience the global impacts of non-point source pollution. A coastal global ocean observing system is one way to address this.
So from Argo to ARGO, I can see a progression of ocean science to operational oceanography. I wouldn't have missed it for anything, and I'm pleased to have interacted with so many colleagues at sea, in the academic community, in endless but productive meetings and conferences, and in achieving funding and results.
Congratulations to the National Science Foundation as it celebrates Fifty Years of Ocean Discovery.