acoustic properties of marginal seas and coastal areas, is critical to national defense. Experience gained in 1991 during the war in the Persian Gulf highlights the need for better information related to oceanic and coastal processes and to maritime operations and transportation.

  • Energy. The ocean's energy resources are essential to the national economy and national security. After a decade of relative neglect, energy issues are reemerging. With oil supplies continually threatened by instability in the Middle East and with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide viewed as a possible trigger of global warming, there is a need to look carefully at a full range of energy sources, from oil and gas in our Exclusive Economic Zone to wave and tidal power and ocean thermal energy conversion. Better knowledge of the ocean and seabed is necessary to exploit responsibly the ocean's untapped petroleum and natural gas resources.

  • Coastal Hazards. This nation must improve its prediction of and response to coastal hazards, both natural and human induced. Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew, two of the strongest hurricanes of the century, devastated parts of the U.S. East Coast. Their impact reinforced the need for better predictive capabilities and a better understanding of coastal storm surges, flooding, erosion, and winds. The exploration for, and production of, petroleum and the transportation of petroleum and chemical products pose risks to the environment when spillage occurs. The movement, effects, and ultimate fates of spilled products must be understood for effective public response. The available information is woefully inadequate, particularly for fragile ecosystems such as coral reefs.

Increasing our knowledge about the ocean is a matter of urgency. Human-induced changes to the planet's oceans and atmosphere will increasingly affect the global cycles that ultimately control the number of people our planet can support. To predict the results of environmental disturbances and prescribe possible remedies, a better understanding of Earth's systems, including the ocean, must be acquired. For example, an important scientific and policy question today is whether Earth will warm in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and, if so, how quickly. We know that the concentrations of these gases are increasing and that the most advanced climate models indicate that warming should occur. The ocean plays a key but poorly understood role in moderating both greenhouse gases and temperature change.

The coast of the United States is one of the nation's most

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