This is the site of the new ATOC page, which is under construction. ATOC as a program ended several years ago. Acoustic thermometry in the North Pacific is supported through the NPAL Program. This page is to document ATOC.
Two precursors to ATOC were the Heard Island Feasibility Test (HIFT) and the Acoustic Engineering Test (AET). The links at right go no where, however.
Background on Acoustic Thermometry
Two sound sources were installed for the first phase of the ATOC feasibility study, one on Pioneer
Seamount off central California and one north of Kauai (Figure 1-1, Location of the ATOC Sound Sources
and Receivers). The Pioneer source began transmitting in late 1995 and continued transmissions in accordance
with MMRP protocols until it was turned off at the end of 1998. The Kauai source began transmitting in
late 1997 and continued transmissions until October 1999, again in accordance with MMRP protocols. The
signals transmitted by the sources were received on SOSUS receiving arrays in the North Pacific and, for
part of the time, on a vertical receiving array located at Ocean Weather Station Papa (50°N, 145°W). The
transmissions from the Pioneer Seamount source were also recorded at various times on vertical receiving
arrays located near the Big Island of Hawaii and near Kiritimati (Christmas) Island. A small number of the
Pioneer Seamount transmissions were recorded by a receiver off New Zealand. The signals from the
Kauai source were also recorded by Russian scientists at a permanent, bottom-mounted receiver located
off Kamchatka. The primary objectives of the first phase of the ATOC feasibility study were to determine
(i) the precision with which acoustic methods could be used to measure large-scale changes in ocean temperature
and heat content and (ii) the effects, if any, which the acoustic transmissions would have on marine mammals
and other marine life. The longer-range goals of ATOC were to use acoustic thermometry data to study
seasonal and interannual temperature variability associated with a variety of oceanographic phenomena, such
as El Niño/La Niña and the PDO, and to test and improve computer models of ocean circulation. The ultimate
goal was to test and refine climate models in order to gain a better understanding of the Earth's changing
climate, including the link between global warming and sea level rise. The basic idea of acoustic thermometry is
simple. Sound travels faster in warm water than in cold water. The travel time of a sound signal from a
sound source near Hawaii to a receiver near California, for example, will decrease if the intervening ocean
warms up, and will increase if the ocean cools down. Acoustic thermometry is feasible because:
Acoustic thermometry takes advantage of an acoustic waveguide deep within the ocean that traps and carries sounds over long distances. This waveguide, known as the "sound channel" or SOund Frequency And Ranging (SOFAR) channel, is centered on the ocean depth where the speed of sound is at a minimum. Above the sound channel axis, sound travels faster because the water is warmer; below, sound travels faster because the pressures are greater. Acoustic energy within the sound channel that would otherwise spread outward to higher or lower depths is refracted (bent) back toward the sound channel axis by this difference in speeds. The net effect is that the sound channel serves as a waveguide that transmits underwater sounds efficiently over long distances. The sound speed minimum varies in depth based upon the temperature profile at a given location. Since surface temperatures tend to decrease toward the poles, the sound channel axis generally is deepest in tropical waters and shallowest in Arctic waters. Typical depths of the sound channel in the Gulf of Alaska, for example, are 100-200 m (330-660 ft), but in warmer areas it is much deeper, on the order of 750-1000 m (2460-3280 ft). On the north shore of Kauai, the sound channel axis is nominally at 800 m (2625 ft), approximately at the depth of the Kauai sound source. Not all of the acoustic energy travels straight down the axis of the sound channel. Instead, some of the sound waves cycle up close to the ocean surface, where they are bent back down, cross the axis of the channel, and reach close to the ocean floor before being bent back once again toward the surface. By measuring the difference in travel time between sound that traveled a straight course down the axis of the sound channel and that which cycled in waves through various depths of the ocean, scientists can measure how ocean temperatures vary with depth. Acoustic travel times provide direct 3D measurements of the horizontally and vertically averaged temperature along the paths traversed by the sound, suppressing the effects of small-scale ocean variability that dominate measurements at a point. The great advantage of acoustic thermometry compared to other types of temperature measurements is that such averages are just what are needed to study large-scale ocean variability and long-term trends in ocean temperature. The information obtained is similar to that which would be obtained for the atmosphere by averaging data from many separate weather stations. In addition, mathematical techniques referred to as inverse methods are used to infer the horizontal and/or vertical structure of the temperature field by combining travel time data from acoustic signals that have traveled along different paths through the ocean. Information on the structure of the ocean temperature field is needed to understand, for example, how the atmosphere and ocean interact to determine our weather and climate and to study the effects of environmental variability on marine life.
Analyses of data from the ATOC project demonstrated that acoustic thermometry is a powerful tool for
making routine measurements of large-scale ocean temperature variability and heat content, as originally
hypothesized. The key results obtained to date are:
Marine Mammal Research Program Results
The California and Hawaii ATOC MMRPs were designed to determine the potential effects of the acoustic transmissions on marine mammals and other marine life. They consisted of multiple components, including:
Abundance and distribution. During the MMRPs conducted in both California and Hawaii, there were no observations of overt or obvious short-term changes in the abundance and distribution of marine mammals in response to the transmissions of the ATOC sound sources. No species were observed to vacate the area around the sound sources during transmissions. Intensive statistical analyses of aerial survey data showed some subtle shifts in the distribution of humpback (and possibly sperm) whales away from the Pioneer Seamount source during transmission periods. No statistically significant shifts in distribution were found for any other species of marine mammal. Visual observation data from the Kauai MMRP showed a similar small shift in mean distance of humpback whales away from the Kauai source during transmission periods.
Behavioral measures. During the MMRPs conducted in both California and Hawaii, there were no observations of overt or obvious short-term changes in the behavior of humpback whales in response to the playback of ATOC-like sounds, nor elephant seals or humpback whales in response to to transmissions of the ATOC sound sources. Intensive statistical analyses revealed some subtle changes in the behavior of humpback whales in response to the playback of ATOC- like sounds and to the transmissions of the ATOC Kauai source (Frankel and Clark, 1998; Frankel and Clark, 2000). The study results showed that the distance and time between successive whale surfacings (segment length and segment duration) increased slightly with increasing sound levels. This result is not what would be predicted, in that if the animals were stressed by the sound source, it might be expected that they would remain at the surface longer because of the lower received levels there. Longer dive durations would correspond to increased exposure to the sound source. No statistically significant changes were found in any other behaviors measured.
Vocalizations. The Hawaii MMRP did not find any overt or obvious short-term changes in the singing behavior of humpback whales in the vicinity of the sound source north of Kauai. No statistically significant changes in the underwater sound output from humpback whales in one of the frequency bands in which they vocalize was found in the vicinity of the Kauai source.
Audiograms. The hearing sensitivity of two species of dolphins to the ATOC sound was measured behaviorally (Au et al., 1997). Audiograms showed that their hearing is poor at the frequencies transmitted by the ATOC sources. The animals would have to be extremely close to an ATOC source simply to be able to detect the transmissions.
Fish. Preliminary playback studies of ATOC-like sounds to fish found no statistically significant responses (Klimley and Beavers, 1998). All of the effects detected by the MMRPs were subtle and found only after intensive statistical analyses. Bioacoustic experts concluded that these subtle effects would not adversely impact the survival of an individual whale or the status of the North Pacific humpback whale population (Frankel and Clark, 2000).