Science Title Image

Science Overview

Our oceans have had a long and complicated history producing an immensely complex, modern system.

Science User Briefing Document Nov 2009

Science User Briefing Document, Nov. 2009.

Our challenge is to optimize the benefits and mitigate the risks of living on a planet dominated by two major energy sources: sunlight driving the atmosphere and much of the upper ocean, and internal heat driving plate tectonics and portions of the lower ocean.

A Long and Complicated History

For 4 billion years the global ocean has responded to and integrated the impacts of these two powerful driving forces while the Earth, the oceans, the atmosphere, and life co-evolved. This long and complicated history has produced an immensely complex modern system in which hundreds, perhaps thousands, of physical, chemical, and biological processes continually interact with one another over many scales of time and space as the oceans maintain a planetary ecological "comfort zone."

Studying Complex Processes Simultaneously

The figure above captures a small fraction of this oceanic complexity, constantly driven by energy from above and below. Deep understanding of this support system requires entirely novel research approaches that will allow the broad spectrum of interactive ocean processes to be studied simultaneously by many different scientists. Approaches that enable perpetual cross examination of linkages among and between all processes in a coherent time and space framework are essential. These powerful new approaches are the challenge and the vision of next-generation Ocean Science.