Is there a global scale ocean circulation?



The word “global” is the “in” word in today's oceanography. We have already had “ecology” and “environment,” and perhaps even the recent “climate” buzz word giving way to the more general designation of “global.” We are faced with the Tropical Ocean and Global Atmosphere program (TOGA), the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE), and the Global Flux Experiment; AGU has entered the “global” stage with a new journal called Global Biogeochemical Cycles (which covers it all), and there was the well-attended Earth System Science: New Views and Plans symposium at the 1985 AGU Fall meeting in San Francisco, Calif., last December.

Why all the interest in the global scale? It's safe to say that the important present concerns of the earth sciences, such as climate stability and the ocean's continued potential to absorb civilization's chemical wastes, are global issues and must be viewed in that context if we are to address them properly. Another factor is that for the first time, through satellite technology, we have the capability of gathering global scale data on a truly synoptic basis. So, as in the past, application of new technology allows us to define new horizons and address a new range of research questions. In addition to these factors, there is also the historical evolution of oceanography, which makes the global prospective particularly appealing at this time.