Sounding Out

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Science  25 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5423, pp. 2067
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5423.2067c

The U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) wants to continue the once-controversial Acoustic Thermometry of Ocean Climate (ATOC) project, which measures sea temperatures by clocking underwater sound pulses.

In 1994, activists stalled the installation of ATOC emitters off California and Hawaii, worrying that the pulses would deafen whales; that fear proved unfounded (Science, 27 February 1998, p. 1302). But ATOC's $40 million seed grant ran out last year and the California station is being dismantled. Last week, however, ONR signaled its desire to keep the Hawaii source running for at least a few more years, saying it will sponsor an environmental study necessary for obtaining new operating permits. ATOC researchers are thrilled by the move, which could take a year to complete, because it will allow them to collect valuable long-term data.

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