The field of ocean optics is characterized by an evolution of driving forces, primarily within the last half of this century. In the 1970s, the field was a source of new information on the scales of variability of ocean dynamics, in terms of surface productivity and deep ocean sediment transport. Subsequent remote sensing developments dictated the development of more sophisticated understanding of radiative transfer and the measurements of optical properties in situ. By the late 1980s, US Navy operations and an ever-quieting submarine fleet demanded increased investment in non-acoustic technologies for antisubmarine warfare. Now the oceanographic community is being redirected and trends for ocean research point toward new applications: improved interannual forecasts relevant on global scales; hazard mitigation, especially in the coastal zone, where weather, anthropogenic, and natural processes are to be dealt with, and; new observation systems: optical sensors are now recognized as standard indicators of change in the chemistry, biology and physics of the sea, and the marine boundary layer. Modeling efforts tied to prediction of thermal dynamics will require treatments of radiative transfer theory on temporal and spatial scales heretofore underserved.