than directly on energy from the Sun. Study of the combined ocean-atmosphere system has provided sufficient knowledge of interannual climate variations that scientists are now able to forecast El Niño climate disturbances months in advance.
Over the next decade, oceanography will continue to provide exciting discoveries by contributing new understanding of Earth as a system and by helping us understand how humankind is altering the system. It is now essential (and possible) to study ocean processes on a global scale. The oceanography of the next decade will take place in the traditional marine science disciplines and at the boundaries of these disciplines. New partnerships among oceanographers working in different disciplines should lead to new discoveries about the ocean's role in climate change, the function of mid-ocean ridges, and coastal ocean processes.
Additional oceanographic studies in the coming decade will focus on how ecosystems affect global cycles of important chemicals and, conversely, how changes in the global environment affect marine ecosystems. Studies of ecosystems at hydrothermal vents and hydrocarbon seeps will refine our ideas about the conditions under which life is possible and about the origins of life. More of the ocean floor must be explored to determine the extent and nature of deep-ocean vents, their ability to support novel organisms, and their importance in global chemical cycles. Continued study of the ocean's chemistry should bring new understanding of the past state of Earth, how ocean processes operate today, and the contribution of sources and sinks of various chemicals. The study of deep-ocean sediment cores will provide more information about past natural cycles of Earth's climate, with which present climate fluctuations can be compared. Oceanographers will achieve a better understanding of the variability of the circulation of the world ocean. The interaction of climate with this circulation is only poorly known, but there is evidence that the transport of surface water to depth can vary greatly even over as short a time as one decade.
Unlike many other sciences driven by scientific curiosity, aspects of marine science have immediate and obvious practical applications. These include, but are not limited to, the control of climate by ocean circulation, chemical and biological reactions to climate change, understanding fisheries productivity, movement of pollutants, and the problem of coastal development in the face of rising sea level. Oceanographers are fortunate to take part in a science that is fascinating, compelling, and intellectually challenging. Oceanography is also a science whose outcome is of