It began at 8 a.m. on an August morning in 1916.
A scientist walked the thousand feet to the end of the wooden pier that had just been completed at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus earlier that year, its planks delivered to the beach in horse-drawn wagons.
A bucket was lowered onto the ocean surface, where it filled with seawater. It was winched back to the deck and a thermometer inserted. A notation was made in a log: 19.5 degrees C on the first day, Aug. 22, 1916. The next day, surface salinity readings were taken as well.
The process was repeated the next day and the next day and the next and has continued nearly every day since then. In July 1926, daily temperature and salinity readings near the sandy ocean bottom were begun to measure bottom water conditions. In the 100 years since, these simple measurements have been augmented with similar readings taken at spots all along the California coast. It has grown into what we now call the Shore Stations Program based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.
The record is now one of the oldest continuous measurements of ocean temperature and salinity in the world, and its longevity and consistency make it a priceless collection of data for scientists everywhere who want to understand long-term changes in nature. It also lets you know if the water is warm enough to go for a swim!
Like all long-term observational datasets, the Shore Stations records just get more valuable with time. It remains as vital as ever for this program to remain intact into its second century, especially as rapid changes in climate require society to be ready for rising sea level, changes in marine life, changes to the look of our coasts.
The Shore Stations Program has been supported by numerous sources over the decades. Volunteers, including aquarists from Birch Aquarium, collect the daily data at Scripps. Currently, California State Parks through its Division of Boating and Waterways supports the data analysis and archiving. However critical needs, such as new sample bottles for salt water collection, and design and fabrication of other vital equipment, as well as necessary travel, is difficult to secure from state funds.
The Shore Stations Program invites you to join the celebration of its centennial. Your supplementary financial support will help ensure that all items needed for daily operations will continue to remain available, and that it will become an even more accessible resource for scientists and ocean-lovers everywhere.
Click here to reach the visit the University of California San Diego Giving webpage for the Shore Stations program.
– Robert Monroe