1997 Volume 75 Issue 1B Pages 131-154
For many years, merchant ships and the naval fleets of various countries have been the major source of data over and in the open ocean. Oceanographic research experiments and process studies in the field have also contributed to the climatological data bases for the global ocean, but, for the most part, these have been limited in duration and extent. However, over the last 10 years under the auspices of the World Climate Research Program and the International Geosphere Biosphere Program the role of the oceans in global and climate change has taken on increased significance. This has created a need for a considerably improved understanding of the seasonal, interannual, decadal and longer time-scale variability of the physical and biogeochemical attributes of the global ocean. As a result, over the past 10 years several major international field programs have been implemented and have had a tremendous impact on the number of in situ observations obtained for the global ocean. The Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere (TOGA) program, the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), and the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS) were designed with observational, modeling, and process study components aimed at analyzing different aspects of the ocean's role in the coupled climate system. In parallel with the field programs, continuous space-based observations of sea surface temperature, sea surface topography, and sea surface winds spanning nearly a decade or longer have become a reality. During this same time period, numerical ocean models and computational power have advanced to the point where the oceanographic observations, both in situ and remotely sensed, can be assimilated into numerical ocean models in order to provide a four-dimensional (x-y-z-t) depiction of the evolving state of the global ocean.