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The focus of Classroom BATS is the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS). Once every month, scientists associated with the BATS project sail in the research ship Weatherbird II to a site about 80 kilometers southeast of Bermuda to collect oceanographic data. BATS began in 1988 as part of the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS), an international program whose purpose is to understand the role the oceans play in large-scale processes of global environmental change. A focus of the JGOFS program is the carbon cycle and the ocean's role in affecting the atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The National Science Foundation funds this long-term, multidisciplinary, ocean time- series, along with a sister time-series station off Hawaii (the Hawaii Ocean Time-series or HOT).
The purpose of these programs is to distinguish natural environmental changes from changes caused by human activities. The data generated by the BATS and HOTS programs help us to understand monthly, seasonal, and year-to-year changes in important physical, chemical, and biological properties of the ocean, and are necessary for eventually being able to predict changes in the global environment.
There are several reasons that Bermuda was chosen for an ocean time-series study. One has to do with the island's location. Bermuda sits atop an extinct volcano that rises steeply from the deep sea floor in the northwestern Atlantic. Bermuda's mid-ocean position makes it a perfect platform from which to do open-ocean research, as one can quickly access the deep waters that surround the island. Collecting data from the BATS site, which lies in water more than 4,000 meters deep, requires a relatively short, 6-hour boat ride. To reach waters this deep from most places on the US East Coast would require several days of travel!
Bermuda was also chosen for an ocean time series study to build on its rich history of open-ocean and atmospheric time-series programs. The Hydrostation S program began near Bermuda in 1954, and is now the world's longest-running oceanographic time-series. The data collected during the Hydrostation S program is included in the Classroom BATS project.
Another important part of BATS is the Satellite Project, where high-resolution images from satellites are used to extend the geographic coverage of the BATS time-series data. The BATS data are important because they show how the ocean changes through time. However, the BATS data are limited by the fact that they are collected at a single spot. Imagine trying to understand or predict the weather for the entire US based on data from a single weather station! By providing greater geographic coverage, the satellite data help place the BATS data in a more understandable and comprehensive context.