This series, managed by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), not only presents the scientific aspects of the themes in question but also the issues as debated by society at large. Science is therefore set within the wider context of economics, politics and society.
The Changing Ocean
The ocean, like our planet as a whole, is undergoing perpetual change. Its variations affect the climate, therefore the life sheltered within it must also adapt to these changes. The physical laws that govern the movements of the ocean have been known since the nineteenth century, but progress in oceanography faced three difficulties. First, the opaqueness of the ocean made observation and measuring difficult. Second, its dimensions and the time- and space-scales of variations required an advanced level of computing power in order to create realistic models. Finally, the international co-operation necessary for discovery and exploration has long been impeded by national, strategic imperatives. But today, our view of this huge domain and its interactions with both the atmosphere and the living resources it conceals has been profoundly modified. The International Geophysical Year (1957-58) marked a turning point with the globalization of oceanographic research. Researchers have access to technological and satellite remote-sensing means that enable near-real-time, three-dimensional observation of the entire ocean. Moreover, computers are now powerful enough to develop models and simulate changes in the ocean's circulation.