Ocean Observations:

What is a sonar?

Sonar, short for Sound Navigation and Ranging, is helpful for exploring and mapping the ocean because sound waves travel farther in the water than do radar and light waves. NOAA scientists primarily use sonar to develop nautical charts, locate underwater hazards to navigation, search for and map objects on the seafloor such as shipwrecks, and map the seafloor itself. There are two types of sonar—active and passive.


Light It Up Activity Demo (Ocean Today)

We take it for granted, but when you think about it, light is amazing. light allows us to see the world around us.


Motion in the ocean (Podcast)

You know about ocean tides, but how much do you know about ocean currents? Watch our three-minute video podcast to learn what puts the motion in the ocean.


Charting new waters (Podcast)

Boaters rely on NOAA's nautical charts for depth measurements so they don't accidentally ground on sandbars or other underwater obstructions. See how NOAA updates nautical charts with high tech tools—including new experimental ocean "robots" that are small enough to survey the nation's shallowest coastal areas.


Measuring water levels with microwaves (Podcast)

We visit a research station perched at the end of a long pier in Duck, North Carolina, to get a close-up look at the microwave radar water level sensor—a revolutionary step forward in how NOAA measures water levels around the nation.


First Sign of Climate Change (Ocean Today)

Dr. Martin Sommerkorn: We have lost Arctic sea ice at a drastic rate over the last couple of years, especially in 2007.


Tsunami Strike: Japan Part I: Destruction (Ocean Today)

On March 11, 2011 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off the Pacific coast of Japan generated a tsunami.


Tsunami Strike: Japan Part II: Propagtion (Ocean Today)

80 miles east of Japan, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake rocks the ocean floor.


Tsunami Strike: Japan Part III: Warning Systems (Ocean Today)

These are the sounds of a tsunami warning. They alert residents that a killer wave is about to strike.


Sounds Under the Surface (Ocean Today)

Every day we are surrounded by noises, from cars and planes, construction sites, and factories. While for most of us it is an annoyance, in some cases it can be harmful.


The Acid Test (Ocean Today)

Scientists refer to ocean acidification as the other carbon problem. The first, of course, is global warming.


Travel the Seas (Ocean Today)

At first glance, a nautical chart may look overwhelming. But once you learn what the various lines, numbers, and symbols mean, reading these charts becomes a lot easier.


Tracking Tsunamis (Ocean Today)

Tsunami - a killer wave - speeding across the ocean at 400 miles an hour. It smashes into land destroying everything in its path.


The Deep Ocean (Ocean Today)

The deep ocean. A place so different, filled with strange life forms. But what’s down there? How much do we know about it?


Protecting Titanic (Ocean Today)

More than two and half miles below the surface, the wreckage of the Titanic rests on the seafloor …… both as a memorial and a living laboratory.


Hurricane Storm Surge (Ocean Today)

Powerful winds aren't the only deadly force during a hurricane. The greatest threat to life actually comes from the water - in the form of storm surge.


News of the Day - Southern Ocean Current Found (Ocean Today)

Did you know there's massive southern ocean current almost two miles below the ocean's surface? Incredible!


Fuel for the Storm (Ocean Today)

We've all heard that hurricanes are one of the most powerful and destructive forces on Earth. But did you ever wonder where they get their strength?


Happening Now: Arctic Sea Ice Sets Record Low (Ocean Today)

In 2012 analysis on Arctic sea ice conditions painted a grim picture. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the summer sea ice minimum extent dropped to its smallest size in recorded history.


Know Your Ocean (Ocean Today)

Even though the ocean covers seventy percent of the Earth's surface, people tend to know more information about land than the sea.


The Autonomous Underwater Glider (#ScienceAtSea)

On March 28, 2015, NOAA Ship Nancy Foster deployed an autonomous glider off the eastern coast of St. Croix. Diving down to depths of 656 feet, the glider moved westward along the southern edge of the shelf break. On the fifth day, shallow waters slowed progress, and the glider remained off the southwest coast. The glider will continue logging data until its retrieval later this month.


Remotely Operated Vehicle Exploration (#ScienceAtSea)

Remotely Operated Vehicles provides scientists with "eyeballs" beneath the water to see the health of the ecosystem.


Ocean Gliders (#ScienceAtSea)

An ocean glider is an autonomous underwater vehicle used to collect ocean data. Scientists are now experimenting with using gliders to locate populations of spawning fish. The glider shown in this video is outfitted with an acoustic receiver to “listen” for vocalizations—grunting sounds—made by some fish as they mass together to spawn in the U.S. Caribbean.


Our Debris Filling the Sea (Ocean Today)

What do a tropical island in the Pacific Ocean and the Antarctic have in common? Unfortunately, it’s marine debris.


The Role of Ice in the Ocean: Pt. III: Shrinking Ice: Impacts (Ocean Today)

As Arctic ice continues to melt, it will cause ripple effects across the planet. When the polar regions warm, even just a degree, it disturbs atmospheric and oceanic patterns.


The Role of Ice in the Ocean: Pt. II: How Do We Measure Ice? (Ocean Today)

If all of the ice in the Arctic Circle were to melt, life as we know it would be dramatically different - and not in a good way.


The Role of Ice in the Ocean: Pt. I: What is Sea Ice and Why Is It Shrinking? (Ocean Today)

The Arctic region is hauntingly beautiful. It's a vast expanse of sea ice floating on water. Sea ice is actually frozen ocean water. It forms, grows, and melts in the ocean.


The Making of a Super Storm (Ocean Today)

For seven days in the Fall of 2012, Hurricane Sandy pounded the Caribbean and US East Coast with punishing rain, wind, and waves.


USS Monitor: The Ironclad Endures (Ocean Today)

It’s March 8, 1862 and an epic battle of the Civil War is underway in the waters off Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Confederate CSS Virginia faces off against its northern opponent, the USS Monitor.


Happening Now: Arctic Sea Ice on the Decline 2013 (Ocean Today)

As summer turns to Fall in the Arctic, the ice cover will shrink to its smallest extent for the year. After a record setting low in 2012, the 2013 summer sea ice extent rebounded – but only slightly.


Lessons from Valdez: 25 Years Later (Ocean Today)

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez grounded on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, rupturing the hull and spilling oil into the pristine waters of Alaska.


Predicting Harmful Algal Blooms (Ocean Today)

Algae play a vital role in the marine ecosystem. They provide food for all sorts of species. But in rare instances, they can also do harm.


Deep Argo (Ocean Today)

Argo is a global array of more than 3,500 free-drifting profiling floats that measure the upper two thousand meters of the ocean.


Tsunami Science: 10 Years since Sumatra (Ocean Today)

December 26, 2004. What began as an undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean ended as the most deadly tsunami in recorded history, with nearly 240,000 lives lost.


What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? (Ocean Today)

Garbage patches are large areas of marine debris concentration that are formed by rotating ocean currents called gyres. A garbage patch is made up of tiny plastic pieces called “microplastics”.


Happening Now: Arctic Sea Ice - On the Decline (Ocean Today)

As summer turns to Fall in the Arctic, the ice cover will shrink to its smallest extent for the year. This day is an important day because the measurement taken will be used to analyze the state of th ...


Happening Now: Dead Zone in the Gulf (Ocean Today)

The 2015 Gulf of Mexico Hypoxic Zone or Dead Zone measures 6,474 square miles - about the size of Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. This is a huge blow to the already fragile Gulf ecosystem and ...


El Niño and La Niña Explained (Ocean Today)

Warmer or colder than average ocean temperatures in one part of the world can influence weather around the globe.


Observing El Niño (Ocean Today)

El Niño and La Niña are periodic weather patterns resulting from interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere in the tropical Pacific Ocean.


Deep Ocean Corals (Ocean Today)

Hawaii is interesting, because it is the most remote island chain in the world, it has a somewhat low diversity of corals.


The Last Grand Challenge (Ocean Today)

Exploring the earth’s oceans is probably the last grand challenge we have on this planet.


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