Acoustic sensing for ocean research

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Ocean observatories have the potential to examine the physical, chemical, biological, and geological parameters and processes of the ocean at time and space scales previously unexplored. Acoustics provides an efficient and cost-effective means by which these parameters and processes can be measured and information can be communicated. Integrated acoustics systems providing navigation and communications and conducting acoustic measurements in support of science applications are, in concept, analogous to the Global Positioning System, but rely on acoustics because the ocean is opaque to electromagnetic waves and transparent to sound. A series of nested systems is envisioned, from small- to regional- to basin-scale. A small number of acoustic sources sending coded, low power signals can service unlimited numbers of inexpensive receivers. Drifting and fixed receivers can be tracked accurately while collecting ocean circulation and heat content data (both point and integral data), as well as ambient sound data about wind, rain, marine mammals, seismic T-phases, and anthropogenic activity. The sources can also transmit control data from users to remote instruments, and if paired with receivers enable two-way acoustic communications links. Acoustic instrumentation that shares the acoustic spectrum completes the concept of integrated acoustics systems. The ocean observations presently in the planning and implementation stages will require these integrated acoustics systems.

Publication Title

Marine Technology Society Journal