Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 3, Page T-5
On Technology
The Ocean Information Center

     Scientists from more than 40 countries are collecting data from
ships, satellites, drifting buoys, tidal stations and sensors as part
of a World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE).
     Keeping track of all that information recently became a little
easier when the University's College of Marine Studies in Lewes, Del.,
set up an electronic forum where WOCE researchers can exchange data
and compare notes.
     Dubbed OCEANIC, for Ocean Information Center, the forum may be
accessed via U-Discover!, the UD's campus-wide link to the Internet.
Ultimately, data that appears on-line in OCEANIC may shed light on the
impact of suspected greenhouse gases, explains Marine Studies Prof.
Ferris Webster.
     Every year, Webster notes, "We're adding an estimated 6 billion
tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels to
power cars and other machines." Roughly one-third of this carbon
dioxide enters the atmosphere, while another third is pulled into the
ocean by circulating currents. Some scientists believe that carbon
dioxide may be a "greenhouse gas" that traps the sun's heat near the
surface of the Earth and contributes to global warming. To study the
possibility of global warming, scientists, therefore, must understand
the rate at which carbon dioxide enters the ocean.
     "The ocean is an enormous reservoir for carbon," Webster says.
"The rate at which carbon moves from the atmosphere to the ocean is
controlled at the water's surface by many processes, including how
quickly ocean currents are bringing fresh water to the surface. So, if
we understand ocean circulation, we can understand how quickly the
ocean pulls carbon down into deep water."
     OCEANIC includes WOCE data gathered by the National Oceanic Data
Center, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration Ocean Data System, plus other
organizations and universities.
     In addition to WOCE data, OCEANIC has become a forum for
researchers involved in the Coupled Ocean Atmosphere Response
Experiment (CORE), which is focusing on events related to El Nino as a
weather phenomenon. Wind-stress maps of the Pacific and Indian oceans
and other products developed using WOCE data also are described on
OCEANIC. Finally, the OCEANIC system includes a searchable database
that lets scientists know when various research vessels and supply
ships are scheduled to set sail.