New technologies (e.g., autonomous mobile systems, fixed seafloor observatories, and remote sensing and modeling) have revolutionized traditional observation-limited oceanographic research, drastically increasing both the amount of data collected and the sophistication of analysis and assimilation. This does not lessen the continuing need for a versatile, technologically capable fleet of research vessels to support oceanographic research. Complex chemical and biological measurements will continue to require shipboard laboratories, and advanced technologies still require ships as platforms and tenders. Technological advances are discussed in detail in Chapter 3 but are introduced here in the context of major science research drivers.

This chapter provides a brief survey of major research trends and needs that will influence the use and design of the future academic fleet. It is not intended as a comprehensive inventory of future oceanographic directions, which can be found in recent community planning documents and agency strategic plans (i.e., Baker and McNutt, 1996; Young et al., 1997; Trenberth and Clarke, 1998; Jumars and Hay, 1999; National Science Foundation, 2001; Ridge 2000 Program, 2001; Liss et al., 2004; MARGINS Office, 2004; MESH Workshop Steering Committee, 2005; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2005; Daly et al., 2006; Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology, 2007; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2008). For organizational ease, this chapter is broken down by disciplinary needs, with the recognition that there is considerable overlap due to the multidisciplinary nature of major scientific questions driving oceanographic research. Several case studies are shown in boxes to help to illustrate multidisciplinary oceanographic research programs that will incorporate new technology and drive the need for adaptable, capable research vessels. Box 2-1 is an example of a current research problem; Boxes 2-2 through 2-5 are hypothetical, near-future scenarios.


Physical oceanography research focuses on the physical properties and dynamics of ocean processes. Future research needs are directed toward the role of ocean circulation and properties in climate change and the global carbon cycle. Global arrays of autonomous platforms and sensors and ship-based hydrography and process studies are essential to progress in these research needs. Ocean circulation changes in the full water column have been linked to a wide range of climatic variations that are of clear and critical interest to society. Ship-based measurements are needed (Hood et al., 2009) to

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