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Oceanography in 2025: Proceedings of a Workshop The Ocean Planet 2.0: A Vision for 2025 Justin Manley* Henry Stommel’s visionary article of 1989, The Slocum Mission, anticipated fleets of autonomous vehicles roaming the ocean over long time scales and collecting unprecedented new oceanographic data. Now, 20 years later, Stommel’s vision has been demonstrated, if not achieved. With the deployment of thousands of Argo floats, and an order for construction of a large fleet of gliders imminent, the idea of many autonomous systems monitoring the ocean is no longer a vision. It is today’s reality. But beyond new approaches to data collection, a vision for the future of oceanography must consider much broader data utilization. In 2009 much of the developed world has moved to a “data consumer” culture, relying upon myriad networked devices to download music and weather reports while uploading family photos and their latest thoughts to social networking sites. Meanwhile, developing economies are seeing rapid penetration of mobile phones with data services used, for example, to check crop prices at market to determine the best time to ship produce. Exchange of professional and personally generated data underlies many activities of modern consumers and producers around the globe. New technologies are bringing this model to the ocean. In 2004, the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown deployed an ROV over the wreck of the RMS Titanic. High-definition video from the ROV was relayed to shore via a * National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Ocean Exploration and Research; Batelle (This view is exclusively the opinion of the author. It does not represent the policy of NOAA or Battelle.)
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Oceanography in 2025: Proceedings of a Workshop high bandwidth satellite link and the public watched nine minutes of live footage of the wreck on the National Geographic Channel. In 2009 data from that cruise is now contained in the newly released Google Ocean™. Those who missed the 2004 broadcast can relive the exploration via freely available software, again from the comfort of their home. No seasickness required! Also in 2009 the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer will complete its shake-down. This vessel will permanently employ ROV and telemetry capabilities like those used in the 2004 Titanic expedition. Ocean exploration is following the model of NASA’s Mars rovers, sending home digital data and limiting the focus on physical samples. Once captured as easily replicated ones and zeros, rather than atoms and molecules, it is easy to envision new discoveries rapidly moving into tools like Google Ocean™ This data flow will not be limited to pictures or bathymetric maps. Viewers of the popular television show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” have come to believe a sample of dust or liquid can yield its secrets to a machine composed of spinning tubes and clicking mechanical arms, linked to an apparently omniscient database. Such sophisticated lab analysis is moving from the bench to the ocean. In 2009, new instruments based on mass spectrometry and laser-Raman techniques have demonstrated the ability to measure dissolved gases or analyze the composition of subsea materials in situ. Other tools are combining powerful optical systems with advanced vision processing software to image and analyze phytoplankton in real time. Wet sample nets on deck are giving way to files emailed around the globe. Today’s technologies are revolutionizing the collection of oceanographic data. Distributed autonomous systems and ocean observing networks will yield rich new data sets and challenge the ability of users to manage and apply this resource. By 2025 the ocean community will be focused on consumption, and meaningful use, of ocean data rather than simply struggling to collect information. Some likely outcomes of broadly available ocean data include: Emerging tropical storms will be rapidly detected and continually compared to models providing superior warning to coastal communities. Pollution in fragile ecosystems will be rapidly identified and followed to its source for prompt enforcement and cleanup. Fisheries will be closely monitored, guiding fisherman to the most efficient catches and resource managers to truly sustainable natural resources. Beach goers, scuba divers, surfers and other coastal users will have immediate access to real time conditions and highly accurate
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Oceanography in 2025: Proceedings of a Workshop forecasts of winds, waves, currents, water temperatures and any hazardous conditions. Shipping traffic will be optimized for time, cost and emissions impacts yielding both economic and environmental benefits. The abundant, and regularly updating, ocean data will be appreciated even far inland. A channel dedicated to climate, much like today’s Weather Channel™, will boadcast three-dimensional models of the fluid (air and water) earth and viewers will come to recognize the flow of the Gulf Stream just as they do the Jet Stream in 2009. The cell phones, or wristwatches or bionic implants of 2025 will connect individuals to global and regional models. Perhaps Google™ will give way to online “goggles” allowing the public to immediately understand the planetary impact of their transportation and consumption choices. Citizens will visit their undersea national parks and monuments through immersive media experiences that will make today’s virtual reality look like black and white television does in this age of high definition plasma screens. Through such experiences, and constant connection to the ocean and its impacts, society in 2025 will recognize what another visionary, Arthur C. Clarke, noted some time ago: “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is clearly Ocean.”