Deployment this summer of a series of U.S. profiling floats in the tropical and sub-tropical North Atlantic Ocean essentially ended the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) field program, bringing to a close 8½ years of international effort. In January 1990, the German research vessel Meteor left Punta Arenas, Chile, on WOCE's first cruise. Since then, scientists from more than 20 countries have amassed a wealth of data that is now becoming available to oceanographers, meteorologists, and other climate investigators.
Previous global oceanographic programs included the Geochemical Ocean Sections Study (GEOSECS) expeditions in the 1970s and research during the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1957–1958. WOCE, however, is the first to include extensive observations from both in situ platforms and satellites. It is also much larger than previous global studies. For example, in the final tally, WOCE will have collected about 9000 deep hydrographic stations, almost three times the number taken during IGY and a factor of about 20 higher than those taken during GEOSECS (Figure 1).