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Illuminating the Hidden Planet: THE FUTURE OF SEAFLOOR OBSERVATORY SCIENCE
Office, 1999; NRC, 1997). GOOS was conceived as an international system for gathering, coordinating, quality controlling, and distributing oceanographic data and derived data products as defined by the requirements of user groups. Support for planning and implementation is apportioned among GOOS sponsoring organizations and is supplemented through these organizations by financial and in-kind contributions from participating nations. The implementation is largely dependent on the commitment of supporting nations to their national observing systems. This commitment not only includes the infrastructure of the observatories themselves, but also the scientific and technical research that is needed to support data centers.
The purpose of GOOS is to provide a framework to ensure long-term, systematic observations of the global ocean and to provide the mechanisms and infrastructure to make these data available to various nations for the solution of problems related to environmental change. GOOS is organized to resemble the global meteorological observation and prediction network presently supported by individual nations and implemented through the contributions of national agencies, organizations, and industries. Thus, observatories established under the auspices of GOOS will be primarily operational in nature. GOOS will include existing observing systems in addition to new systems, such as the proposed GEO observatories discussed above, that may become part of the GOOS network. Furthermore, it is likely that much of the data collected from a network of research-driven observatories, such as that proposed here, would be merged into the datasets that will be collected as part of GOOS. Much of the impetus for the GOOS plan has come from the need for operational oceanographic data to improve nowcasts and forecasts of ocean conditions and weather and climate.
With the numerous multipurpose ocean observatory efforts in place or proposed, some of which are discussed in boxes later in this report, a great opportunity exists for synergy among these groups. This interaction was an important point of discussion at the symposium, and numerous common areas of interest were noted. For example, there is significant overlap in the locations needed to complete the OSN and those sites necessary for the GEO observatories (Plate II). If a major network of seafloor observatories were planned in the future, to conserve resources and share common technology it will be important to develop channels for interaction between established and proposed observatory efforts.
It was not part of the Committee's charge to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing observatory programs. A thorough review of these programs will be an important task during the drafting of an implementation plan for establishing a seafloor observatory program. When writing this implementation plan, the design strengths and weaknesses of existing programs be considered in detail.