Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 15 Issue 04

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Volume 15, No. 4
Pages 44 - 45

BOOK REVIEW • Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences

Richard W. Spinrad
First Paragraph

My copy of the Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences arrived in a large carton. The statistics and specifications on this encyclopedia set the stage well. More than 3000 pages, in six large format hard-bound volumes, with a promised on-line supplement, this major work is a daunting contribution to the technical literature of the oceanographic community. The Editorial Advisory Board, alone, has 32 members from 7 countries. The Editors, John Steele, Steve Thorpe and Karl Turekian, well-known community leaders, compiled contributions from more than 400 scientists from 22 countries (with many of them enjoying membership in The Oceanography Society) in an extraordinarily diverse spectrum of topics, from “Abrupt Climate Change” (by S. Rahmstorf) to “Zooplankton Sampling with Nets and Trawls” (by Peter Wiebe and Mark Benfield). That, in fact, is where the real craft of this encyclopedia materializes. How does one identify the 400 or so topics that lend themselves to a 5-10 page comprehensive overview each, and that—in aggregate—represent a complete definition of the field of ocean science? The answer, in this case, is “very nicely!” Even a quick glance through the contents reflects a very fair balance of treatment of such diverse subjects as physical oceanography (e.g. “Upper Ocean Responses to Strong Forcing Events” by Nick Shay), marine policy (e.g. “Coastal Zone Management” by Seoung-Yong Hong and Chan-Wen Lee), platforms (e.g. “Autonomous Underwater Vehicles” by Jim Bellingham), and ocean biogeochemistry (e.g. “Iron Fertilization” by Ken Coale). I am particularly impressed by the care that the Editors gave to maintaining the appropriate level of ‘granularity’ in their definition of topics, and the obvious oversight they imposed in ensuring that the authors adhered to this guidance. For example, instead of dealing with the broad subject of “Ocean Optics” (this reviewer’s own ‘pet rock’), about which lengthy volumes have been produced, the Editors broke the subject into several key contents including “Radiative Transfer in the Ocean” (by Curt Mobley), “Transmissometry and Nephelometry” by Casey Moore, “Bio-Optical Models” by Andre Morel, and “Inherent Optical Properties and Irradiance” (by Tommy Dickey). (There are also a score of articles on various aspects of remote sensing). Similarly, a topic like Marine Mammals is parsed into at least seven distinct articles. The result is a collection of succinct articles of easily digestible length and detail.


Spinrad, R.W. 2002. Review of Encyclopedia of Ocean Sciences, edited by J.H. Steele, K.K. Turekian, and S.A. Thorpe. Oceanography 15(4):44–45, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2002.08.