IEEE Oceans Wrapup: Ocean Observing and Real-Time Data

So I’ve been a bit absent lately from this blog. This was largely due to the fact that I’ve been a man on the run for the past month or so, both figuratively and literally. There were two trips down to Monterey Bay at the end of August, the first to recover DEIMOS, and the second to participate in a cruise on the R/V Western Flyer (read about it here). Then there was a week or so of driving back and forth between the San Francisco and Monterey Bays, meeting with various people and tracking down data sets. Then a drive back to Seattle, a frenzied hunt for a new apartment, which ended yesterday when I signed a lease for a year on a houseboat(!) in Portage Bay, across from the UW. And there were preparations for the Institute of Electrical and Elecronics Engineers/Marine Technology Society Oceans 2010 conference in Seattle this week, at which I gave a talk on my research.

There were all kinds of cool stuff there, including a number of awesome talks about Ocean Observatories. NEPTUNE Canada in particular is charging ahead with their installation, as well as the dissemination of the fire-hose blast of data that is starting to come in. NANOOS (Northwest Association of Networked Ocean Observing Systems, the Northwest regional network of the US Ocean Observing Initiative) also seems to be doing a great job of this. Their data website is absolutely fantastic, and I would encourage anyone who is interested to head over and check it out. It is probably the best-designed oceanographic data browser I’ve seen. It hit me that the data management and dissemination side makes an observatory network just as much as the actual cables and instruments in the water.

One person (whose name I didn’t catch) made the comment that easy, real-time open access to data is one of the best things to happen to cross-disciplinary collaboration in a long time. In the old days, each scientist tended to watch his own data come in, then try to interpret it into a coherent story and publish it. It was only after publication, or at the annual conference, that other researchers could see his work and begin to relate it to their own. With live data, however, when one scientist sees an interesting feature in his own data, he can immediately look up measurements from other instruments at the observatory to see if they show anomalies as well. If they do, he can call up those instruments’ scientists and start talking immediately. Long-term, hi-res time series are usually quoted as the number one advantage of ocean observing systems, but the potential for real-time collaboration between scientists in different fields is, in my opinion, a really close second.

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