The World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) was the first project of the World Climate Research Programme and was focused on improving our understanding of the important role of the ocean circulation in climate. Its planning, observational and analysis phases, spanned two decades (1982-2002) and, by any measure, WOCE is the most ambitious, comprehensive and successful survey of the physical and chemical properties of the global ocean undertaken to date.

Throughout the 1980s, WOCE was planned to collect in situ data from an unprecedented multi-year seagoing campaign and from a new generation of Earth observing satellites, using them to validate and improve models of the global ocean circulation for use in climate prediction research. In the event, WOCE occupied over 23,000 hydrographic stations on 440 separate cruises between 1990 and 1998.

WOCE results are documented in almost 1800 refereed scientific publications and it is most commendable that the WOCE data sets have been publicly available via the World Wide Web and on CD ROMs since 1998 and DVDs since 2002. Its scientific legacy includes: significantly improved ocean observational techniques (both in situ and satellite-borne); a first quantitative assessment of the ocean circulation's role in climate; improved understanding of physical processes in the ocean; and improved ocean models for use in weather and ocean forecasting and climate studies.

WOCE opened a new era of ocean exploration. It revolutionized our ability to observe the oceans and mobilized a generation of ocean scientists to address global issues. We therefore enter the 21 century with both the tools and the determination to make further progress on defining the ocean's role in climate and in addressing aspects of global and regional climate change. However, much more remains to be done in the exploitation of WOCE observations and in the further development of schemes to assimilate data into ocean models. These aspects of ocean research and model development are now being continued in the Climate Variability and Predictability (CLIVAR) project, designed in part as the natural successor to WOCE within the World Climate Research Programme.

The WOCE global hydrographic survey of physical and chemical properties is one of unprecedented scope and quality and provides the baseline against which future and pre-WOCE changes in the ocean will be assessed. I am both delighted and privileged therefore to introduce the first of the four volume series of WOCE atlases describing this data set. The volumes (and the science that has resulted from these observations) are a fitting testament to the months spent at sea and in the laboratory by literally hundreds of scientists, technicians and ships' officers and crew in collecting and manipulating these data into the much needed, valuable and timely resource that they represent.

Dr David Carson
Director of the World Climate Research Programme

BP is proud to support the publication of the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE) Atlas series. These volumes are the product of a truly international effort (with some 25 countries being involved) to survey and make oceanographic measurements of the world's oceans.

Each of our lives interacts with the oceans in many different ways, but the ocean is a vast and important resource that feeds us, houses a large fraction of the planet's biodiversity, regulates our atmosphere, and plays a key role in maintaining the stability of the Earth's climate. Increasing our knowledge and understanding of the oceans is therefore of great importance. The WOCE data have established a baseline against which future changes can be compared. All predictions about global warming hinge critically on the response of the oceans. A substantial part of our uncertainty about future climate change relates to the incomplete knowledge of the oceans embedded in our climate models. The WOCE data are now a critical resource against which to test our models and to improve our predictions of climate change. As someone deeply concerned about climate change, I cannot overemphasise the importance of this. Climate change is of genuine public concern - a concern shared by BP.

In 1997 BP was the first company in the oil and gas industry to accept the fact that, while the scientific understanding of climate change and the impact of greenhouse gas emissions is still emerging, precautionary action was justified. BP became actively involved in the global climate change policy debate, supporting emerging technologies for mitigation measures, and actively reducing emissions from our operations and facilities.

The WOCE Atlases stand as a record of the world's oceans during the decade of the 1990s - the decade when the issue of global warming and climate change came to public attention. In years to come, this record will be increasingly used to assess the changes of climate as reflected in the oceans. This will be a measure of the effectiveness of the actions and technologies, which are being, and will be, employed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. BP will continue to be actively involved and, by supporting the production of these atlases, hopes to achieve a much wider understanding of the current state of the oceans, as identified by WOCE, and of climate change.

The Lord Browne of Madingley
Group Chief Executive, BP p.l.c.