Oral history of British science

Woodworth, Philip (Part 6 of 9) An Oral History of British Science

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  • Recording locations

    British Library studio, London and Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, Liverpool

  • Interviewees

    Woodworth, Philip 1949- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)

  • Abstract

    Part 6: [2:06:19] [Session three: 6th October 2011] Comments on responsibilities at IOSB from 1983, including analysis of data of Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level [PSMSL], analysis of SA data with DC; visits to TG sites in UK. Mentions Newlyn Tidal Observatory [NTO], Scotland. [2:39] Comments on development of TG network in South Atlantic and Gibraltar, as UK component of GLOSS (Global Sea Level Observing System), linked to WOCE (World Ocean Circulation Experiment), late 1980s. Comments on difficulties of establishing/maintaining TGs in Africa and Antarctica. [4:01] Comments on significance of reference height benchmarks at TG sites. Description of operation of ‘float and stilling well’ [FSW] tide gauge. [7:17] Comments on reference level benchmark in lighthouse at Newlyn, providing ODN (Ordnance Datum Newlyn) as reference SL for UK. [8:06] Comments on other TGs, including sea bottom pressure recorders, above sea acoustic/radar transmitters. Mentions TG site, Holyhead, Wales, UK. Mentions idiosyncrasies of different TG types; value of experience of TGs in use of PSMSL data. [9:59] Brief description of installation of radar/acoustic TG. Comments on advantages of radar TGs. Mentions protection from theft of radar TGs; widespread use of ‘bubbler’ pressure TG/ standardisation of recording/data sharing technologies in UK TG network; communication between TGs and UK data centres; role of TG data in flood warning; collection of all TG data by PSMSL. [14:36] Description of operation of bubbler TG [BTG]. Mentions role of DP, IOSB in encouraging installation of BTGs in UK network, mid 1970s. Detailed comments on effect on BTG data of waves. Mentions refurbishment of communications technology in UK TG network. Comments on durability of BTGs. [22:02] Description of installation of BTGs. Mentions use of parallel TGs as check on data; autonomous operation of TGs; yearly visits to TGs by IOSB staff. [25:07] Comments on role of local contacts/key holders at TG sites; method of automatic recording/communication of data. Description of use of tide pole to check TG data visually. Comments on long term ‘drift’ in TG equipment. Mentions significance of Sheerness TG site in relation to Thames Flood Barrier. [32:02] Comments on positive effect on US TG data of local people, employed until recently, to monitor TG sites. Mentions limited role of ‘key holders’ in UK. Mentions primary use of UK TG data in flood warning; secondary use in climate science. Comments on local use of TG data; lack of local objection to TG sites. Brief story of objection to FSW TG, Coleraine, Northern Ireland. [38:56] Description of problems of accurate measurement using FSW TG. Mentions difficulty of installation of FSW TG. Description of problems of accurate measurement using acoustic TG/radar TG. [44:23] Comments on establishment TG network, Pacific islands, by Klaus Wyrki [KW], in relation to El Nino. Story of establishment of TGs on islands of south Atlantic [SA], as part of GLOSS, late 1980s. Mentions links with BAS [British Antarctic Survey] in establishment of SA TGs. [48:32] Mentions role of self in arguing scientific value of SA TGs; members of Technology Group, IOSB involved in installation of TGs; high cost of SA TG network. Comments on measurement of bottom pressure through Drake Passage for WOCE; collaboration with BAS. [51:05]. Detailed comments on tendency for Argentina to ignore Port Stanley TG data, with related story. [54:39] Comments on placing of UK TGs in relation to coastal geography/infrastructure/demands of flood warning. [57:08] Comments on/discussion of choice of sites for TGs on SA islands, including St Helena, Ascension Island, Falkland Islands, Tristan da Cunha; assistance of local people on SA islands. [1:10:43] Comments on sabotage to TGs in South America/Africa. Mentions provision to local people of tide tables. [1:12:01] Comments on identification of global SL rise over past 100 years by data of PSMSL. Mentions establishment of PSMSL 1933 by Joseph Proudman. Description of PSMSL, including role of secretary Elaine Spencer [ES] in securing monthly mean SL data from each country. Mentions use of ‘OMNET’ email system, late 1980s. [1:16:54] Discussion of PSMSL data. Comments on increase in amount of data collected; current use of internet. [1:19:20] Brief description of ES’s checking/entry of monthly mean SL data into ‘relational’ database. [1:20:38] Comments on Honeywell mainframe, IOSB, early 1980s. [1:21:08] Comments on spectral analysis of ‘time series’ of SL data [1:24:17] Comments on identification of ocean currents/geological effects/earthquake signals in SL data. Mentions use of SL data analysis in predictive climate models. [1:26:45] Comments on history of interest in global SL change, from mid twentieth century; increase in interest in global SL change, in relation to climate change [CC], mid 1990s; identification/prediction of global SL change as one part of SL science. [1:30:44] Comments on spectral analysis of SL data, including linear regression/Fourier analysis, including use of computer language FORTRAN and more recent MATLAB program; large data sets produced by SA. Brief description of use of FORTRAN. Comments on NERC graphics library associated with FORTRAN compiler. [1:36:32] Comments on collaboration with DC in analysis of SEASAT altimetry data; US Navy GEOSAT mission; superior altimetry of US NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)/French CNES’s (Centre National d'Etudes Spaciales) TOPEX/Poseidon [TP] and European Space Agency’s [ESA] ERS-1 satellites, launched early 1990s. [1:40:04] Comments on working/personal relations with DC; relations between DC and ESA/NASA. [1:44:09] Discussion of role as UK Principal Investigator for TP/ERS-1; focus of IOSB on use of SA to measure SL height; IOSW’s focus on waves, until WOCE. [1:47:33] Description of content of international meetings concerning TP/ERS-1. Mentions public release of TP/ERS-1 data. Brief description of ‘sea state bias’/ ‘corrections’ in interpretation of SA. Comments on prolific publication rate of French scientists, using TP data; scale of French investment in TP/ERS-1. [1:57:30] Mentions/discussion of earnest approach of French in contrast to US scientists. [1:59:13] Brief story of failure of UK PAF (Programming Algorithm Facility) for SA data, based at Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough. Mentions relations between UK PAF and ISOW/German PAF. [2:01:13] Description/discussion of own analysis of TP/ERS-1 SA data

  • Description

    Interview with oceanographer Philip Woodworth

  • Related links

    Visit this interviewee's page on the 'Voices of Science' web resource

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