What have all these programs and expeditions taught us about the ocean?
Let's look at some milestones in our ever increasing understanding of the
oceans beginning with the first scientific investigations of the 17th
century. Initially progress was slow. First came very simple observations
of far reaching importance by scientists who probably did not consider themselves
oceanographers, if the term
even existed. Later came more detailed descriptions and oceanographic experiments
by scientists who specialized in the study of the ocean.
1769 Benjamin Franklin, as postmaster, made the
first map of the Gulf Stream using information about ships sailing between
New England and England collected
by his cousin Timothy Folger (Figure 2.7).
1775 Laplace's published his theory of tides.
1800 Count Rumford proposed
a meridional circulation of the ocean with water sinking near the poles
and rising near the Equator.
1847 Matthew Fontaine Maury published his
first chart of winds and currents based on ships logs. Maury established
practice of international exchange
of environmental data, trading logbooks for maps and charts derived from
1872-1876 Challenger Expedition marks the beginning of the systematic
of the biology, chemistry, and physics of the oceans of the world.
1885 Pillsbury's made direct measurements
of the Florida Current using current meters deployed from a ship moored in
1903 Founding of the Marine Biological Laboratory
of the University of
California. It later became the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
1910-1913 Vilhelm Bjerknes published Dynamic
Meteorology and Hydrography which laid the foundation of geophysical
fluid dynamics. In it he developed the idea of fronts, the dynamic meter,
air-sea interaction, and cyclones.
1930 Founding of the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Post WW 2 The need to detect submarines
led the navies of the world to greatly expand their studies of the sea.
This led to the founding of oceanography departments at state universities,
including Oregon State, Texas A&M University, University of Miami,
University of Rhode Island, and the founding of national ocean
laboratories such as the various Institutes of Oceanographic
of The Oceans by Sverdrup, Johnson, and
Fleming, the first comprehensive survey of oceanographic knowledge.Post
WW 2 Founding of oceanography departments at state universities, including
Oregon State, Texas A& M University,
University of Miami, and University of Rhode Island, and the founding of
national ocean laboratories such as the various Institutes of Oceanographic
1947-1950 Sverdrup, Stommel, and Munk publish
their theories of the wind-driven circulation of the ocean. Together the
three papers lay the foundation for
our understanding of the ocean's circulation.
1949 Start of California Cooperative
Fisheries Investigation of the California
Current. The most complete study ever undertaken of a coastal current.
1952 Cromwell and Montgomery rediscover the Equatorial
Undercurrent in the
1955 Bruce Hamon and Neil Brown develop the CTD for measuring conductivity
and temperature as a function of depth in the ocean.
1958 Stommel publishes
his theory for the deep circulation of the ocean.
1963 Sippican Corporation
(Tim Francis, William Van Allen Clark, Graham
Campbell, and Sam Francis) invents the Expendable Bathy Thermograph XBT now
perhaps the most widely used oceanographic instrument. 1969 Kirk Bryan
and Michael Cox develop the first numerical model of the
1969 Kirk Bryan and Michael Cox
develop the first numerical model of the oceanic circulation.
1978 NASA launches the first oceanographic
satellite, Seasat. The project developed techniques used by generations of
1979-1981 Terry Joyce, Rob Pinkel, Lloyd
Regier, F. Rowe and J. W. Young develop techniques leading to the acoustic-doppler
current profiler for
measuring ocean-surface currents from moving ships, an instrument widely
used in oceanography.
1988 NASA Earth System Science Committee headed by Francis
Bretherton outlines how all Earth systems are interconnected, thus breaking
down the barriers
separating traditional sciences of astrophysics, ecology, geology, meteorology,
1991 Wally Broecker proposes that changes
in the deep circulation of the oceans modulate the ice ages, and that the
deep circulation in the Atlantic could collapse, plunging the northern
hemisphere into a new ice age.
1992 Russ Davis and Doug Webb invent the autonomous, pop-up
continuously measures currents at depths to 2km.
1992 NASA and CNES develop
and launch Topex/Poseidon, a satellite that maps
ocean surface currents, waves, and tides every ten days.
1993 Topex/Poseidon science-team members
publish first accurate global maps of the tides.
on the history of physical oceanography can be found in Appendix A of
W. S. von Arx's An Introduction to Physical Oceanography.
collected from the centuries of oceanic expeditions have been used to describe
the ocean. Most of the work went toward describing the steady
state of the ocean, its currents from top to bottom, and its interaction
with the atmosphere. The basic description was mostly complete by the
Figure 2.8 shows an example from that time, the surface circulation of
the ocean. More recent work has sought to document the variability of oceanic
to provide a description of the ocean sufficient to predict annual and
interannual variability, and to understand the role of the ocean in global