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Oceanography in 2025: Proceedings of a Workshop (2009)

Chapter: Small Scale Ocean Dynamics in 2025--Jonathan Nash

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Suggested Citation:"Small Scale Ocean Dynamics in 2025--Jonathan Nash." National Research Council. 2009. Oceanography in 2025: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12627.
Page 144
Suggested Citation:"Small Scale Ocean Dynamics in 2025--Jonathan Nash." National Research Council. 2009. Oceanography in 2025: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/12627.
Page 145

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Small Scale Ocean Dynamics in 2025 Jonathan Nash* Major advances in oceanography result from methodical sampling fortunate enough to capture details of new processes at work. While web-accessible observatories will provide one source of ocean data, small scale physical dynamics will continue to be elucidated using novel instru- mentation and well-planned, intensive studies. These are key if internal waves and the resultant turbulence are to be generalized and identified within sparse datasets or parameterized in imperfect models. However, the changing infrastructure and technological advances in electronics, energy, and computational power by 2025 will change the way these studies are conducted. Together these will permit real time integration of process-driven experimentation, ancillary observatory data and numeri- cal modeling. By 2025, we will have new instruments, more powerful computers, and more efficient access to ancillary data. But the discover- ies will still be made by inquisitive scientists interpreting real data that streams to us either while at sea or from afar. To move these discoveries to the next level, we will continue to need advanced, efficient vehicles (ships?) with long-range acoustics, rapid profiling capability, etc. From a technological standpoint, oceanographic instrumentation will benefit from the same advances in high-capacity, low-power electronics that now enable a year’s worth of turbulence data to be acquired with a small battery pack, miniaturized electronics and penny-sized storage * College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences, Oregon State University 144

Jonathan Nash 145 devices. By 2025 we will see routine use of high data-rate sensors in both autonomous roving platforms and moored applications. Instrument suites previously restricted to lab or tethered applications may see rou- tine long-endurance, remote usage as cabled observing systems become a reality. But new energy systems may provide the biggest change. By 2025, lithium batteries may have gone the way of the phonograph; new energy technologies and/or efficient propulsion systems may power propelled autonomous vehicles for many months instead of many hours. Imagine if energy capacity were to no longer limit mission length, data transmission rates, internal computations, etc. The possibilities for remote, in situ sam- pling would be almost endless. High-speed autonomous vehicles with high-power acoustics and other sensors could sample in ways almost unimaginable today. Could these eliminate the need for manned ships for physical sampling? More realistically these advances will be incre- mental. But crises inspire change; even increased efficiency will change our capabilities. A proliferation of enhanced, long-endurance autonomous platforms could provide a globally distributed set of turbulence and internal wave measurements. Through a combination of routine and targeted experi- ments, these would capture the dynamics of events that occur both fre- quently and infrequently, under extreme conditions (hurricanes, high seastate) and in remote locations (high latitude winters). To date, these dynamics have been grossly undersampled due to our general desire to stage experiments in easily accessible regions and when seas are calm. By 2025, I believe we will have made substantial progress towards both quantifying these processes and incorporating their effects into our mod- eling framework.

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On January 8 and 9, 2009, the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council, in response to a request from the Office of Naval Research, hosted the "Oceanography in 2025" workshop. The goal of the workshop was to bring together scientists, engineers, and technologists to explore future directions in oceanography, with an emphasis on physical processes. The focus centered on research and technology needs, trends, and barriers that may impact the field of oceanography over the next 16 years, and highlighted specific areas of interest: submesoscale processes, air-sea interactions, basic and applied research, instrumentation and vehicles, ocean infrastructure, and education.

To guide the white papers and drive discussions, four questions were posed to participants:

What research questions could be answered?

What will remain unanswered?

What new technologies could be developed?

How will research be conducted?

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