The nation’s Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) has reached a major milestone: Its network of ocean sensor systems is now fully operational and sending a broad, continuous stream of data back to shore. Funded by the National Science Foundation with a planned life of 25 years, the OOI provides online access to a growing trove of multidisciplinary oceanographic data, freely available to researchers, educators, and the public worldwide.
From the OOI’s inception, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has been a major partner in the project, along with Oregon State University, Rutgers University, and the University of Washington. In 2009, WHOI began the design and construction of four Global Arrays deployed in remote high-latitude oceans near Alaska, Argentina, Chile, and Greenland, and the Coastal Pioneer Array, an observatory network that spans the continental shelf off New England. WHOI scientists and engineers travel to the arrays on a regular basis to deploy, maintain, and upgrade them, while WHOI personnel on shore control the infrastructure and download and monitor the data. In all, WHOI is responsible for more than half of the OOI’s arrays and instruments.
The OOI has established a long-term scientific presence in the ocean. The project represents the world’s largest investment in ocean science, consisting of 83 platforms, including anchored surface and profiler moorings, cabled moorings and seafloor sensors, remotely controlled ocean gliders, and autonomous underwater vehicles spread across seven arrays in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In all, more than 830 instruments make physical, chemical, and biological measurements from above the water’s surface down thousands of feet to the ocean floor, operating around the clock, 365 days a year. These data are served up free-of-charge via the OOI data portal, many in near-real time.
To date, the NSF has invested $386 million to design, build, and purchase the OOI’s platforms and instruments, and to fund initial deployments. The OOI is a transformative program, providing ongoing data on climate change, ocean acidification, important ecosystems and the fisheries they sustain, and other ocean-related situations that pose societal challenges. OOI will also enable scientific discoveries for decades to come.
The images you see above show the magnitude of this scientific undertaking, and the breadth of cooperation and expertise needed to transform this visionary project into a successful tool used by oceanographers, teachers, and the general public.