PerspectiveOceanography

Advance in global ocean acoustics

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Science  18 Sep 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6510, pp. 1433-1434
DOI: 10.1126/science.abe0960

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Summary

In the past 50 years, the major conceptual revolution in physical oceanography is the transformation from considering the ocean as a large-scale, extremely slowly changing fluid to a fundamentally turbulent one. The ocean changes across a wide range of temporal and spatial scales, from millimeters to 30,000 km and from seconds to multimillennia, with major regional differences. Because ocean exploration relied on a few slow, expensive ships exploring over many decades and depicting only the grossest mappable global properties, observing the variability is a forbidding challenge. The ocean is very noisy, filled with short–spatial scale structures that make obtaining large-scale average properties problematic. The oceanographic community responded by developing altimetric and gravity satellites, the Argo profiling system, and ever more capable models. On page 1510 of this issue, Wu et al. (1) demonstrate how an intriguing combination of physical oceanography and classical seismological techniques potentially opens the way for an entirely new and globally capable observation system.

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