Keeping Ocean Altimetry in the Public Eye
Jet Propulsion Laboratory,
4800 Oak Grove Drive #264-331,
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099,
The 1997-98 El Nino, the largest on record, created a new media star – the ocean-observing Topex/Poseidon. Millions of people saw images created with ocean altimetry on the evening news and in newspapers and magazines as reporters tried to explain the climate phenomenon. Topex/Poseidon gave El Nino a face.
Today, more members of the public than ever have seen altimetry images in stories about El Nino, La Nina, hurricanes, ocean currents, and climate change. Along with this exposure is an increased public awareness of ocean altimetry and its importance. Scientists have an opportunity to build on this hard-won familiarity though the Internet.
The Internet gives scientists an opportunity to communicate regularly with the general public about their research. It also provides a challenge to describe projects in plain language and develop images that are easily understood.