The future of Earth observation – GEO-X

(…)We ask so much from the ocean, expecting it to provide us with an endless supply of protein and act as an unfillable reservoir for our waste. But there are limits on both counts and we are bumping up against them.

Researchers have long known that we are depleting fisheries around the globe as human population swells and our technologies for catching fish outstrips their ability to reproduce. What is new is the scientific research showing that we are changing oceans in a fundamental, even elemental way, as a result of our massive release of carbon dioxide.

“The ocean absorbs about 25 percent of the man-made CO2 emissions,” Carol Turley, a senior scientist at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England, reported to GEO members. The CO2 combines with sea water to create carbonic acid, which, among other things, interferes with the ability of marine organisms to build and maintain shells and skeletons.

Ocean acidity has increased by 30 percent since the beginning of the industrial revolution, Turley reported, and much of that has occurred over the last 40 years, creating what she calls a “silent storm” as the effects begin to cascade through marine ecosystems.

Richard Bellerby, a research scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Water Research, cited the need to continue building the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON), to collate and interpret information on ocean acidification. Bellerby’s research centers on the Arctic Ocean, a region that is, he points out, “the most sensitive global basin-wide system in the world, in terms of acidification.”

Libby Jewett, director of the Ocean Acidification Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States, stressed the role that satellites can play in gathering data on ocean acidity.

“Satellite observations on sea surface temperature, salinity, and winds,” said Jewett, “can be used to understand the changing chemistry of the ocean.” She cautioned, however, that since these interactions vary by location, researchers still need to develop algorithms for specific regions.(…)

Osha Gray Davidson, earthzine, 16 January 2014. Article.

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