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50 Years of Ocean Discovery: National Science Foundation 1950—2000
FIGURE 4 Spectra of climate variations in sub-antarctic piston cores as inferred from variations in oxygen isotopes. Prominent spectral peaks, labeled a, b, and c, correspond to the predicted periods of eccentricity, obliquity, and precession of the Earth's orbit. Reprinted from Hays et al. (1976) in Science, Vol. 219 with permission from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
FIGURE 5 Sea-surface temperatures for northern hemisphere summer 18,000 years ago as determined by climate proxies mapped by the CLIMAP project. Contour intervals are 1°C for isotherms. Black dots show the locations of cores used to determine paleoclimate. Extent of continental glaciers is shown for the northern hemisphere, and coastlines reflect the corresponding lowering of sea level. Reprinted from CLIMAP (1976) with permission from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
insolation that leads to ice volume variations, and the spectral amplitudes are not stationary in time. Despite these remaining questions, the deep sea has provided a well-calibrated record of Earth's natural climate changes that can be used to help assess the future impact of man's activities.
The National Science Foundation was by far the greatest supporter of climate research, including the very successful CLIMAP project (Figure 5). A large amount of the paleoclimate work was supported and continues to be supported by NSF-MG&G. However, the Division of Atmospheric Sciences and the Ocean Drilling Program were also major players. MG&G has benefited greatly from broader NSF initiatives in global change that support paleoceanographic research beyond what the MG&G program could afford.
THE ASCENDANCE OF NSF SUPPORT
During the course of my interviews for this assignment, I asked a number of people when they recalled NSF taking over from ONR as the principal source of funding in MG&G. The universal answer was that the changeover occurred in the mid-to late-1970s. And yet the numbers from Lamont (Figure 6) and Scripps in no way support this impression. Even in the early 1970s (as far back as, it seems, anyone bothered to keep records), NSF was providing more dollars to the oceanographic institutions than ONR. Why was the impression just the opposite?