An international team of scientists from six countries set sail last week on Ireland’s national research vessel, RV Celtic Explorer on a major trans-Atlantic voyage to study the impact of climate change on the ocean. Departing from St. John’s Newfoundland, and due to arrive in Galway on 23 May, the Galway-based Marine Institute-led team of experts are surveying a transect of the Atlantic Ocean last surveyed 20 years ago to investigate carbon dioxide levels in the ocean. The survey is essential to understand and project how carbon dioxide emissions are accumulated in the oceans and the atmosphere, as well as its effects on the acidification of the ocean.
The survey is part of the Global Oceans Ship-Based Hydrographic Investigations Program (GO-SHIP ) which carries out systematic and global surveys of select hydrographic sections, through an international consortium of 16 countries and laboratories. This is the first GO-SHIP survey to involve this level of collaboration with scientists from nine leading universities and research institutes representing six countries joining the survey.
Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO Marine Institute said, “The Marine Institute is proud to lead this truly international collaboration. This GO-SHIP A02 survey is a very real example of the Galway Statement in action: working together to better understand and increase our knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean and its dynamic systems, and promoting the sustainable management of its resources.”
Key part of the Galway Statement
The Galway Statement signed at the Marine Institute 24 May 2013 launched the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance between the EU, Canada and the USA. The survey is coordinated by the Marine Institute and National University of Ireland, Galway with project partners GEOMAR, Germany, University of Exeter, United Kingdom, Dalhousie University & Fisheries and Oceans, Canada, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution & Columbia University, USA and Aarhus University, Denmark.
“Ship-based surveys are still the only way to collect the best quality measurements of fundamental physical, and biological properties known as Essential Ocean Variables” explains Dr Evin McGovern, of the Marine Institute and Principal Investigator on the GO-SHIP A02 survey. “Although technology has provided many new methods to collect ocean measurements, there’s really no substitute for going out on the ocean on a research vessel. We can use satellite technology to monitor the ocean surface and can deploy autonomous argo floats to measure carbon to depths of 2000, but we need to carry out ocean surveys that can measure to get a complete picture of the chemistry of the ocean at different depths up to 5000m. The transect we are surveying is a really dynamic area of the Atlantic for heat transport and is hugely important to informing our understanding of our global climate and how the ocean regulates our climate,” said Dr McGovern.
“The Northwest Atlantic is one of the world’s largest sinks of carbon dioxide and despite progress in our understanding there’s still a huge lack of data as it relates to climate change’s impact on the ocean and what that means for the economy and society,” said Brad de Young, a professor of Physics and Physical Oceanography at Memorial University, Newfoundland and an Ocean Frontier Institute researcher.
Sharing of expertise
“Improving our scientific understanding and developing strategic and effective solutions for safe and sustainable ocean development requires sharing of expertise, international co-operation and exchange of data and best practices. And that’s what this voyage is all about” adds Doug Wallace, Canada Excellence Research Chair, Dalhousie University.
This survey is carried out with the support of the Marine Institute and funded under the Marine Research Programme by the Irish Government. The CFC and Carbon team activities are funded through the AtlantOS project under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme grant agreement No. 633211. Support to the Carbon and Nutrient teams, is funded by the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ocean Science and Technology.
Scientists from the Marine Institute and National University of Ireland, Galway are coordinating this survey. Dr. Evin McGovern from the Marine Institute is the survey’s principal investigator, with the Marine Institute directing the project management, technical support and the overall science-lead on key aspects of the survey. Prof. Peter Croot from NUI, Galway is the on-board Chief Scientist and responsible for scientific programme decisions on board. The onboard survey team includes scientists from the Marine Institute and NUI, Galway, the University of Exeter in the UK, GEOMAR in Germany, Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA with other Institutions in Canada and Denmark also involved, in survey planning and support, each bringing complementary expertise.
The Marine Institute is the national agency responsible for marine research, technology development and innovation in Ireland. The Marine Institute provides scientific and technical advice to Government to help inform policy and to support the sustainable development of Ireland’s marine resource.