The California Coastal Commission on Thursday unanimously approved a plan by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to measure global warming by booming sounds through the Pacific Ocean--but only after the scientists first study the impact of loud noise on undersea life and confirm that there are no ill effects.
The commission approved the plan after a three-hour hearing in Carmel, during which representatives from the commercial fisheries industry voiced concern that the noise could disrupt their operations. In response, the commission added a fisheries biologist to the group that will oversee the scientists.
The $35-million experiment created great controversy last year. Environmentalists worried that the high-decibel noise would harm whales. As a result, a compromise was drafted earlier this month that will require researchers first to spend 18 months studying what the noise will do to nature.
The scientists proposed the controversial study in the first place because they believe that by measuring deep-water sound waves they can detect small changes in the temperature of the Pacific Ocean. Sound travels faster when water is warmer.