OceanScope: Private-science Collaboration to Provide Critical Ocean Information
A report highlighted in EOS, the American Geophysical Union's premier international newspaper, on April 3 proposes a formal partnership between the ocean-observing community and the global shipping industry for the systematic long-term study of the ocean water column from surface to depth. According to the report prepared by Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research/International Association for the Physical Sciences of the Oceans (SCOR/IAPSO) Working Group 133, the rationale is that commercial ships on the high seas offer a cost-effective opportunity to contribute to directly addressing a significant observational gap that currently exists. Systematic long-term observation of the water column would serve four distinct and critical needs: forecast/ nowcast applications; studies of ocean processes and dynamics; effects on climatology; and detailed knowledge of the interior state of the global ocean.
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"The project builds upon the successful program initiated through NOAA's Collaborative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) at the University of Miami (UM), in collaboration with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., which has already generated more than 200 scientific papers and presentations over the past decade," said Peter Ortner, UM Research Professor and Director of CIMAS, who served as co-editor of the OceanScope report. "As part of the SCOR/IAPSO working group, we shared scientific and technical best practices from our experiences aboard the Explorer of the Seas as well as recent advances in fully automating shipboard systems which are being implemented onboard the Allure of the Seas."
What is truly unique about OceanScope is that it will directly measure ocean circulation dynamics, create synergies by integrating circulation measurement with present and planned shipboard observation programs and then freely and rapidly distribute all the data collected.
"Royal Caribbean is extremely pleased with the results that have come from this partnership" said Rich Pruitt, associate vice president, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. "Our corporation is proud of the contribution that the Explorer of the Seas has made to understanding the global climate system and the seas on which she sails. We look forward to continuing this collaboration and to the discoveries and understanding that will surely come from expanding this important initiative."
The CSCOR/IAPSO working group, co-chaired by H. Thomas Rossby, Professor Emeritus at the University of Rhode Island, identified ocean observation and scientific needs, routes for sustained observation, vessel types suitable for sustained observation, available and future technologies to meet mission requirements, data and communications needs, exclusive economic zone questions, and how the OceanScope partnership should be organized. Uniquely the working group included not only scientists but also ship owners and operators, naval architects, government agencies and ocean technology companies. The plan is being enthusiastically received by industry organizations including the International Chamber of Shipping and the World Ocean Council. OceanScope proposes to first tackle the North Atlantic Ocean basin because several ocean observing initiatives are already under way in that region. A 5-year ramp-up is envisioned, which would also serve to fully test, evaluate, and refine the program before its global implementation.
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