The International Year of the Ocean

1998 is the International Year of the Ocean (YOTO), by declaration of the United Nations. The purpose of YOTO is to promote public awareness and understanding of the oceans, a dominant aspect of the environment. The oceans are also a key player in global change issues. Just consider the interest in such front-page topics as El Niño, hurricanes, and rising sea level. The U.S. federal role in YOTO is managed by the Ocean Principals Group, composed of civilian and military agencies (including DOE) with ocean-related activities. The Ocean Principals Group has identified several themes (maritime transportation; national security; ocean resources; marine environmental quality; recreation and tourism; and weather, climate and natural hazards) and four crosscutting issues (science, technology, and research; legal framework; management of ocean areas, uses and resources; and education and exploration).

One activity that you may find of particular interest is Project YOTO Drifters, presented by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP). NOPP was established in law to promote national goals through improved knowledge of the oceans and to coordinate and strengthen oceanographic efforts by identifying and carrying out partnerships among federal agencies, academia, industry, and other components of the ocean science community, with a focus on data, resources, education, and communication. DOE and eleven other federal agencies form the partnership.

Project YOTO Drifters is engaging the education community by making available real-time data from dozens of "drifters"--instrumented devices that float on the ocean surface and drift with the ocean currents, transmitting data on location, salinity, sea-surface temperature, and other variables via satellite. The project is coordinated by Dr. Ellen Prager, an oceanographer from the U.S. Geological Survey. DOE supports the project by providing the Project YOTO Drifters' Web page (, which has been developed by CDIAC's Forrest Hoffman, with important linked information furnished by other NOPP partners. From the Project YOTO Drifters Web page, users can track individual drifters (and predict movement of icebergs and pollutants), study global warming, monitor El Niño and La Niña, follow hurricanes, verify satellite data, build their own drifters, see images of the oceans, ask questions of professional oceanographers, and follow links to related Web sites.

Check out the Project YOTO Drifters on the Internet, and have fun in this, the International Year of the Ocean! 

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