Pacific Northwest Ocean Observatory

Nov 12, 2009, 4:39PM EST
Pacific Northwest Ocean Observatory
The University of Washington received the largest-ever federal award to construct an ocean observatory off the Pacific Northwest.

The Regional Scale Nodes project is receiving money from the National Science Foundation through the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.  The contract consists of approximately $385 million over 5½ years in funding for the National Science Foundation's Ocean Observatories Initiative and is the culmination of a two-decade quest to transform the manner in which science in ocean basins can be conducted.
The University of Washington (UW) is slated to receive approximately $126 million during 5½ years to construct the Regional Scale Nodes component of the Ocean Observatories Initiative. Nearly $106 million of first-year funds for the Ocean Observatories Initiative are coming from federal stimulus dollars, of which UW will receive approximately $35 million to begin installing nearly 500 miles of fiber-optic and power cable and seven science nodes on the seafloor off the Pacific Northwest.
The scientific challenges and innovative technological approaches will open opportunities for enhanced scientific discovery and cutting-edge educational programs. Extending the full power of the Internet to planned deep-ocean networks of underwater robots, instruments and sensors will dramatically improve human understanding of the oceans, Earth's planetary-scale life support system, and natural events in the oceans that influence climate change.
One of the unique aspects of the UW portion of the Ocean Observatories Initiative is the innovation of submarine electro-optical cables for power and real-time, two-way communication with many hundreds of sensors offshore.  The cabled observatory approach will give scientists new ways to study the processes that influence global climate, fossil fuel carbon, ocean acidification, fish stocks, tsunamis, and harmful algal blooms.
The Regional Scale Nodes program was formerly known as NEPTUNE. Canada was an early partner in the NEPTUNE effort and is building a complementary cabled network known as NEPTUNE Canada that will be located on the northern end of the Juan de Fuca plate and will be operated by the University of Victoria.
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