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This is a glossary of terms and concepts used in oceanography and related fields. These fields include but are not limited to oceanography, paleoceanography, meteorology, climatology, geology, numerical analysis, signal processing and statistics. The goal of this glossary is to provide a tool that will be useful to a wide variety of people ranging from working oceanographers to curious laymen.

This glossary includes the words, phrases, acronyms and other abbreviations that comprise the technical vocabulary used in used by those who study and write in these fields. The words may be either those used uniquely in a field or more common words that have a special meaning in the context of the geosciences. The phrases are those such as The Challenger Expedition that have a special or important meaning in a field and that can't be correctly or justly subsumed under any single term. The acronyms and abbreviations are legion, a situation common to all fields of scientific or technical endeavor in recent times. These entries are expanded and then defined similarly to the other types of entries.

A unique feature of this compendium is the presence of links to sites on the World Wide Web that are directly related to many of the entries. This is the case for most of the institutions and organizations and is becoming increasing the case for research programs. These are included because it is an easy way for those who, in rapidly increasing numbers, have access to the Web to obtain further information about a topic, especially that sort of information falling under the rubric of multimedia, i.e. pictures, sounds, animations, interactive demonstrations, etc. These are also included because I plan to have a companion version of this in hypertext available along with the hardcopy version, probably on CD-ROM, on which such Web references will be live links to the Web sites.

I've also included references for further information for most entries, and in many cases multiple references, since I neither intend nor want to be the final word on any of the topics included. I prefer to refer to books or review articles since they are excellent meta-references to entire fields in themselves, but in many cases reference to a single significant article or paper is required. The references will also range from those written for the notorious intelligent laymen to daunting technical treatises, as I want them to be useful to people with a wide variety of interests and experience.

I intend to include several types of entries not usually (if ever) found in reference works pertaining to the geosciences. One of these is entries pertaining to government and private research institutions and programs related to the oceanographic fields, e.g. WHOI, IFREMER, IODC, RSMAS, etc. Another is entries with information about specific research programs or initiatives of past, present and future (planned), e.g. IGY, COARE, TOGA, WOCE, etc. These will include not only the land- and ocean-based investigations, but also the rich variety of programs to remotely sense data from satellite and airplane platforms. These entries will include information about specific initiatives (EOS), satellite programs (METEOSAT), specific satellites (ADEOS), and even individual sensors on satellites.

Another type of entry will deal with applicable computer software, i.e. numerical circulation models for atmosphere and ocean, data analysis packages, etc. It is no longer possible to separate the research from the tools used to analyze, display and publish the research, especially when that research requires processing literally gigabytes of raw numbers (from, for instance, numerical simulations or satellite sensors) to create a graph or table from which to draw conclusions. There are also many publically available numerical models for performing simulations of the circulation in the ocean or the atmosphere that require some description as well as information about how to obtain them.

Why am I doing this? In addition to being an obsessive/compulsive sort of pack rat about these things, I'm largely dissatisfied with the disparate, obsolete and incomplete sources currently available. For example, none of the older oceanography glossaries or encyclopedias have much of anything about Rossby or Kelvin waves, and the newer glossaries that encompass the earth or environmental sciences have, if anything, not much more than an entry along the lines of "this is a type of wave found in the ocean." It's also impossible to find available in any one place (or even a reasonable number of places) a concise summary of the dynamical and hydrographical features of the world ocean (in addition to the literature being rife with multiple and conflicting names for various water masses and currents).

I also like (and more often than not need) pointers to further and usually more technical reading in my reference works, and preferably to reasonably state of the art references. Finally, recent advances in computer technology (more about which below) have made it possible to create and maintain a dynamic version of such a reference work and, additionally, to maintain simultaneous versions in more than one format, i.e. hypertext, PostScript, etc.

What constitutes a ``typical'' entry? Well, within a rather large envelope I want most entries to comprise several basic elements. First, there'll be a brief description of what a concept or term means or what an acronym or abbrevation stands for (followed by a description). The initial portion of the description will be written in as jargon-free a style as possible to allow the general reader to understand it, although additional and more technical portions can contain more terms of a technical nature for reasons of brevity. The occasional heavy going will be somewhat alleviated by textual indications (via italicization or hyperlink) of which terms used in the description are themselves defined in the glossary. This will prevent the constant redefinition of commonly used technical terms from making the thing any more bloated than it already is.

The additional material beyond a concise definition or identification will include such things as further pertinent or interesting information about the person, place or thing being described when such information is available and applicable. I suspect the typical reader would be every bit as unenthralled as I would be to have to wade through a couple of paragraphs of particulars about, say, the Sverdrup measurement unit beyond what it is in terms of more familiar units and a brief mention of who the appellation honors. Some things simply don't require much verbiage to be adequately described.

Conversely, some concepts are inherently complex and as such require more than a bit of background to convey their meaning in such terms as can be understood by the nonspecialist. Examples of this type would include the Reynolds equations, the capacitance method, double Kelvin waves, and the like. Equations are likely to sneak into this type of entry on occasion, although I'm mindful of the warning given to him by Stephen Hawking's publisher about each equation losing a percentage of one's potential readership.

Folded somewhere into the mix should be a brief mention as to the applicability of the entry to the oceanography context when it has a larger or more colloquial meaning with which it might be confused. And, in the case of parameters and the like, some idea will be given as to their typical values or numerical magnitudes to lend an air of pragmatism to the enterprise.

Finally, there will be a pointer to further information on the topic at the end of the entry, where applicable. Some entries just won't need such a thing, and others practically scream for it. The reference(s) will be to either an article available somewhere in a hardcopy print version or to a Web site. The latter is most applicable when an organization or project that's being defined has a home site somewhere on the Web. I'll try, in the case of references to articles in print, to avoid the grey literature and, if at all possible, give a pointer to a review article that will itself offer a rich variety of further references.

Hardcopy reference books (i.e. dictionaries, encyclopedias, glossaries) that cover reasonably similar material include Allaby and Allaby (1991), Allaby (1985), Allaby (1994), Art (1993), Ashworth (1991), Charton (1988), DeLoach (1994), Fairbridge (1966), Mayhew and Penny (1992), McIntosh (1963), Monkhouse and Small (1976), Moore (1967), Parker (1977), Stachowitsch (1992), Tver (1979), Whitten and Brooks (1972) and Whittow (1984). Books containing glossaries that were especially helpful include Bowen (1991) and Huggett (1991).

This is being developed using the LaTeX 2 HTML software package (written in Perl) developed by Nikos Drakos, which allows both hypertext (HTML) and printable (LaTeX) versions to be maintained simultaneously in the same source code. The separate versions are not identical (as indeed they shouldn't be due to the inherent limitations and capabilities of both media types) but reflect (or bloody well should) the state of the art of each presentation method. For instance, the online version features direct links to pertinent Web sites, while in the hardcopy version these electronic addresses are seen as footnotes.

The ``competition'' on the Web thus far includes

  1. Earthstorm's Online Weather Glossary
  2. Glossary of Hydrologic Terms
  3. Global Change Glossary
  4. Earth Observing System Glossary
  5. tide glossary
  6. USGS earth science/remote sensing glossary
  7. National Weather Surface glossary
  8. cloud glossary
  9. solar system glossary
  10. EOS satellite glossary
  11. remote sensing and radar glossary
  12. Quaternary acronyms and abbreviations
  13. solar-terrestrial term glossary
  14. remote sensing glossary
  15. cartographic terms glossary
  16. Palmer LTER glossary
  17. coordinate systems overview
  18. map projections overview
  19. geodetic datum overview
  20. Carbon Dioxide and Climates glossary
Lists of acronyms consulted include
  1. GIS, Cartography and Remote Sensing Acronyms
  2. Ocean Science-Related Acronyms
  3. EOS list
  4. WOCE list
  5. environmental and environment-related acronyms
  6. NOAA AOML list.
  7. GAIM list
  8. EOSDIS list
  9. ZUDIS acronyms

A hardcopy version of this glossary is available as either as compressed (by gzip) dvi file created from the LaTeX source code file or as a compressed PostScript file created from the dvi file using the dvips utility. The current version requires around 340 pages when printed. This glossary is copyrighted 1995-1996 by myself, but can be freely transmitted in unaltered form for nonprofit purposes.

As a final fair warning, I should mention that the URLs or links to other sites on the Web liberally sprinkled throughout this document are in no way guaranteed to be up-to-date or otherwise valid. These things are still changing more often than the color of Dennis Rodman's hair, so it will be a while before the URL becomes anywhere near as stable a concept as, say, an ISBN number.

next up previous contents
Next: Contents Up: Glossary of Oceanography and Previous: Glossary of Oceanography and

Steve Baum
Mon Jan 20 15:51:35 CST 1997