scripps institute of Oceanography is the world's preeminent center for ocean and earth research, teaching, and public education. Also known as SIO, Scripps Institute of Oceanography is located in La Jolla, California. The mission of the institute is to seek, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of the oceans, atmosphere, Earth, and other planets for the benefit of society and the environment. A graduate school of the University of California, San Diego, Scripps's leadership in many scientific fields reflects its continuing commitment to excellence in research, modern facilities and ships, distinguished faculty, and outstanding students—and its horizons continue to expand. The institute offers a number of undergraduate and graduate courses in a variety of marine and earth science disciplines.
Research at Scripps encompasses physical, chemical, biological, geological, and geophysical studies. Ongoing investigations include the topography and composition of the seafloor, waves and currents, and the interchanges between the oceans and atmosphere. Scripps's research ships are used in investigations throughout the world's oceans. Today, the Scripps staff of 1,300 includes approximately 100 faculty, 300 other scientists, and some 225 graduate students, with an annual budget of more than $140 million. Other observations and collections are made by ocean devices, airplanes, remotely operated aircraft, land stations, and satellites. Scripps's educational program has grown hand in hand with its research programs. In its most recent survey of graduate schools, the National Research Council ranked Scripps the number one oceanographic program in faculty quality, distinction, and scholarly publications.
Instruction is on the graduate level, and students are admitted as candidates for a Ph.D. degree in oceanography, earth sciences, or marine biology. Academic work is conducted through the graduate department and eight curricular groups: biological oceanography, physical oceanography, marine biology, geological sciences, marine chemistry and geochemistry, geophysics, climate sciences, and applied ocean sciences.
The Scripps Institute of Oceanography department offers over 45 undergraduate courses covering a wide breadth of earth and marine sciences on several different levels. There are several introductory classes for nonmajors, as well as upper-division courses intended for a wide range of students in natural science majors. For students interested in careers in earth sciences, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography offers a B.S. degree and a contiguous B.S./M.S. degree in earth sciences. In addition, students may follow a chemistry/earth sciences major, a physics major with a specialization in earth sciences, or an environmental systems/earth sciences major. The program also offers an academic minor in earth sciences.
Scripps is one of the oldest and largest centers for global science research and graduate training in the world. More than 300 research programs are now conducted at the institute, aimed at gaining comprehensive understanding of the oceans, atmosphere, and structure of the Earth.
Oceanography, by its very nature, is interdisciplinary. It spans many sciences including physics, chemistry, geology, biology, meteorology, climatology, and paleontology. Scripps scientists pioneered exploration of the world's marine environments. They are leaders in studies of climate change, plate tectonics, ocean circulation, marine biology and ecology, marine pharmaceuticals, seafloor mapping, seismology, coastal processes, the El Niño phenomenon, biodiversity and conservation, and atmospheric sciences.
Graduate students play an integral role in the Scripps missions of teaching and research. Scripps offers excellent graduate instruction, and students perform a significant part of Scripps research activities. The stature of the institution is manifested in the quality both of the students it attracts to the program and of the scientists it graduates.
Climate sciences concerns the study of Earth's climate system, with emphasis on the physical, dynamic, and chemical interactions of the atmosphere, ocean, land, ice, and the terrestrial and marine biospheres. One of the central challenges is developing the ability to predict future climate changes, whether they are the consequences of human activities or the result of natural climatic cycles. A related challenge is understanding how and why the climate of the Earth has changed in the past.
To understand Earth's climate system requires understanding the mechanistic links between physical and chemical changes in the atmosphere (e.g., changes in winds, clouds, rainfall, sunlight, greenhouse gas abundance, or stratospheric ozone) and changes in the oceans (e.g., shifts in the current systems, temperature structure, or ocean biota), in the ice sheets (e.g., advances and retreats), and in land biota (e.g., changes in length of growing seasons or habitat range).
The climate system includes powerful feedback mechanisms. The amount of moisture in the atmosphere, for example, increases with global temperature, but the moisture also contributes to additional warming through the greenhouse effect. Scientists studying the climate system need experience in many disciplines, including meteorology, oceanography, geography, ecology, geology, and paleontology.
Observing the climate system depends increasingly on new measurement technologies, such as satellite and in situ measurements of the atmosphere, oceans, and land surface. These developments are enabling Scripps scientists to develop a more precise and detailed understanding of various conditions that affect climate, such as winds, ocean currents, clouds, and amount of vegetation.
Charles David Keeling, a professor of oceanography at Scripps, received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, which is awarded for accomplishments in environmental science, energy, and medicine that confer great benefit on mankind. Keeling, a world leader in research on the carbon cycle and the increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, known to influence the greenhouse effect, has been affiliated with Scripps since 1956. Keeling was the first to confirm the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide by very precise measurements that produced a data set now known widely as the Keeling curve. Before Keeling's investigations, it was unknown whether the oceans and vegetated areas on land would absorb any significant excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere produced by the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial activities. Keeling became the first to determine definitively the fraction of carbon dioxide from combustion that is accumulating in the atmosphere.
Keeling's major areas of interest include the geochemistry of carbon and oxygen and other aspects of atmospheric chemistry, with an emphasis on the carbon cycle in nature. He has been a world leader in the study of the complex relationships between the carbon cycle and changes in climate. The Keeling record of the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, represents what many believe to be the most important time series data set for the study of global change.
SEE ALSO: Geography; Oceanography; University of California; Weather.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. Climate Change and Carbon and Carbon Management, http://www-esd.lbl.gov/CLIMATE; Climate of Change, http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu; Scripps Institute of Oceanography, http://www.sio.ucsd.edu.
Fernando Herrera University of California, San Diego
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