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NOAA scientists have made significant progress in this area and, to ensure further progress toward solving the acid rain problem, established a formal NAPAP Research Office in the fall of 1985.

During the 1980's, NOAA continued a variety of research activities designed to improve our understanding of the marine and Great Lakes environments in order to promote safety and economy in maritime activities and develop a sound scientific basis for management decisions associated with the development and utilization of ocean and Great Lakes waters and their resources. Currently, these activities include:

marine ecosystem assessment research to provide improved forecasts and assessments of natural oceanic and Great Lakes systems and the impacts of human-induced stresses on those ecosystems;

marine resource assessment research which focuses primarily on: developing an improved understanding of the physical, geochemical and biological processes associated with sites of active seafloor spreading; and developing a capability to predict more accurate forecasts of marine fish stocks by studying the environmental factors controlling recruitment; and

marine hazards and lake hydrology research to improve forecasting skills, environmental information, and advisory services associated with hazardous coastal winds and waves; storm surges, seiches, and tsunamis; lake levels; and ice growth, movement and breakup.

Significant advances were made in all three areas during the early eighties and NOAA remains committed to strong programs in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes assessment and prediction activities designed to ensure safe, efficient and cost-effective use of those environments and promote the development of marine resources and associated industry.

The 1980's brought the National Sea Grant College Program to a significant stage in its development. The designation of the South Carolina Sea Grant College Program in 1986 brought to twenty-one the number of academic programs to achieve that status nationwide. Since its inception in 1966, Sea Grant has supported the establishment of premier programs in marine science, education and technology transfer in most of the coastal and Great Lakes states as well as Guam and Puerto Rico. This network, and more than three hundred individual institutions which have participated in the program now constitute this Nation's primary, university-based marine resource program.

The mid 1980's was a special time for the National Undersea Research Program. In July 1985, the HYDROLAB habitat facility in the U.S. Virgin Islands was decommissioned and in May 1986, NOAA donated HYDROLAB to the Smithsonian where it now serves as a permanent museum tribute to the scientists who contributed to the research conducted in the Nation's oldest, continuously operated underwater habitat.

Ocean Services

The 1980's have also brought significant opportunities for growth and progress in oceanic science and services. In 1980, Congress enacted two pieces of legislation which added new regulatory responsibilities to NOAA's ocean programs. P.L. 96-283, the Deep Seabed Hard Mineral Resources Act, gave NOAA responsibility for licensing exploration for and, eventually, permitting commercial recovery of manganese nodules from the deep seabed. In addition to the development of associated rules and regulations and the actual processing of applications, NOAA is responsible for Environmental Impact Statements associated with the issuance of such licenses and permits and, with the State Department, the negotiation of reciprocal agreements with other nations likely to conduct commercial mining of manganese nodules from the seabed.

The late seventies was also a period of interest in alternative energy sources. One of the alternatives is ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) -- a process that uses the heat energy stored in the warm surface waters of the world's oceans to produce electricity or other energy-intensive products. P.L. 96-320, the Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion Act of 1980, gave NOAA lead responsibility for licensing the construction, ownership, location and commercial operation of OTEC plants.

When President Reagan proclaimed a 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around the U.S. in 1983, he increased the Nation's sovereign area by 3.4 million square miles. The historic act also posed a major challenge for NOAA -- mapping a "new territory", the seafloor of the EEZ which encompasses an area greater than the land area of the U.S. and its territories. NOAA and its predecessor organizations have provided maritime products in support of the Nation's commerce since President Jefferson created the Survey of the Coast in 1807. Over the years, as technology has advanced, the agency has maintained a leadership position in marine mapping, applying that technology to its programs. NOAA, in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey of the Department of Interior now is conducting surveys of selected high priority areas of the EEZ, using new multibeam swath technology. Development of the multibeam sonar system, advances in computer technology, applications of heave-roll pitch sensors to account for ship motion, and improved marine positioning accuracy all contribute to our improved ability to map the seafloor.

NOAA is engaged in a program to produce 1:100,000 scale detailed bathymetric maps (for example, 179 such maps would be required to cover the west coast EEZ). Bathymetric maps are topographic maps of the seafloor which are basic tools for scientific, engineering, and marine environmental studies. Detailed bathymetry off our shores will form the basis for private sector exploration and subsequent development of EEZ resources. The compiled maps also will be contained on digital data tapes. It should be noted, however, that the high resolution, bathymetric data acquired by NOAA's multibeam swath survey systems is viewed by the Department of Defense (DOD) as a potential threat to national security. The issue has not been fully resolved, at the time of this writing, between NOAA, DOD and the National Security Council, so only limited release of the information is being made.




Publication of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NOAA Central Library.

Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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