"A system for ocean observing and forecasting that covers the world's oceans and their major uses can reduce growing risks, protect human interests and monitor the health of our precious oceans," said Dr. Tony Haymet, Director, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California.
"We have demonstrated that a global ocean observing system can be built, deployed and operated with available technologies. Now we must move from experiment and proof-of-concept to routine use," said Dr. Haynet. "We have progressed less than halfway to our initial goals. Let's complete the task before we are struck by more tsunamis or comparable calamities," he added.
Data analysis, integration with observations from the atmosphere and other sources, and assimilation into models then may produce insights and forecasts useful to the public and policy makers. "Oceans cover a majority of our planet, yet are vastly under-sampled," said Dr. Haymet. "We have an urgent need and new technological marvels available today to complete a system by which marine scientists could authoritatively diagnose and anticipate changing global ocean conditions, something akin to the system that enables meteorologists to predict weather," he added.
"A continuous, integrated ocean observing system will return the investment many times over in safer maritime operations, storm damage mitigation, and conservation of living marine resources, as well as collecting the vital signs of the ocean that are needed to monitor climate change," said Dr Haynet.
A world marine monitoring system will have other benefits as well. A majority of life on Earth eats, swims, crawls, fights and lives in oceans. Water temperatures affect where species live and travel, as well as the distribution of nutrients, plankton and on up the food web. An integrated ocean observing system will illuminate the impact of shifting ocean conditions and pollution on marine and coastal ecosystems and the distribution, abundance and biodiversity of organisms.
Deeper understanding of ocean behaviour will also help society better forecast and protect itself from catastrophic storms such as hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis. Better ocean information will improve short and long range weather and climate prediction, thereby strengthening disaster preparedness and damage mitigation and strategies for agricultural and seafood harvests.
As well, better ocean observing will improve safety of the marine transportation network, which conveys 90% of goods traded internationally, with accurate, timely information about ocean conditions.
In fact, a more fully developed ocean observing system will foster important new insights into how altered ocean conditions, including warmer water and increasing acidity, affect weather, climate and the role of the oceans as a carbon sink. Among the other benefits offered by better ocean observing is the measurement of sea surface temperatures, which would be able to predict movement of fish from traditional waters, and even outbreaks of disease, as well as monitoring pollution-induced eutrophication, which will help predict toxic algal blooms.
Better ocean observation will also help harness various energy sources safely and efficiently with minimal environmental impact. The aim of the scientists to complete the world monitoring system is about 10 years.