Observing global oceans


in Science, The environment

Canadian Parliament

A number of severe problems are facing the world’s oceans and the living things that dwell within them. There is the exchange of invasive species through shipping, worldwide overexploitation of fish stocks, the acidification of the ocean from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, changes in salinity that threaten major ocean currents, and pollution (including eutrophication from chemical runoff). As such, calls for more extensive study seem quite justified. One group that has been making such demands is the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO). They have called for an expanded global monitoring system involving research ships, buoys, satellites, and animal tagging. Such a system should both help scientists to understand the operation of existing systems better and predict the future consequences of ongoing human activities.

One of the more interesting satellites in the process of deployment is Jason-2. It will provide data on sea level changes with unprecedented accuracy and coverage. Using a RADAR altimeter, it will determine sea levels to centimetre precision, measuring the 95% of all ice-free ocean areas every ten days. This is helpful because sea level is not constant or globally consistent: observing how it changes can improve the quality of weather predictions and climate models. The level of radiation in the zone where Jason-2 will orbit is intense. As a consequence, the projected lifetime of the craft is only about five years. If all goes well, it should be launched in February 2008 to replace the Jason-1 system, already suffering from multiple failures.

Understanding climate absolutely requires understanding the nature of the oceans, as well as the interactions between the hydrosphere (liquid water), cryosphere (ice), and atmosphere. Hopefully, a few billion dollars spent on oceanic research will yield understanding that can help to guide more intelligent action. Of course, having that transpire requires more than scientific certainty – it requires the personal and political will that have really been the absent element in ocean management.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan November 26, 2007 at 2:44 pm

Marine scientists call for massive ocean study



November 25, 2007 at 12:47 PM EST

“Marine scientists called Sunday for a $2-billion to $3-billion study of threats such as overfishing and climate change to the oceans, saying they were as little understood as the Moon.

A better network of satellites, tsunami monitors, drifting robotic probes or electronic tags on fish within a decade could also help lessen the impact of natural disasters, pollution or damaging algal blooms, they said.

“This is not pie in the sky … it can be done,” said Tony Haymet, director of the U.S. Scripps Institution of Oceanography and chairman of the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO).

He told Reuters that a further $2-billion to $3-billion would roughly match amounts already invested in ocean research, excluding more costly satellites. New technologies were cheaper and meant worldwide monitoring could now be possible.”

Anon November 27, 2007 at 10:19 am

Looks like a ‘coalition of the deluded:’

“The debate on climate change at the CHOGM saw Trinidad and Tobago being identified by Canada as its only supporter for that country’s position against any statement that would have only mandated the developed countries in the Commonwealth to make “binding commitments” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”


R.K. November 27, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Speaking of the sea, things remain dire for bluefin tuna.

. November 27, 2007 at 1:21 pm

Pollution linked to industrialization in China could be causing gigantic Nomura jellyfish to plague Japanese fisheries, scientists said this week.

The jellyfish can measure 6 feet across and weigh up to about 450 pounds. They are drifting en masse to places like Oki, a small island 40 miles off Japan’s coast, bobbing beneath the surface of the water like pink mines. They rip holes in fishermen’s nets, and they poison fish.

One theory based on a computer model of ocean currents suggests that jellyfish are breeding off the Chinese coast near the mouth of the Yangtze River because pollution into the river is creating more algae in the sea for the jellyfish to feed off. The algae are food for plankton, which is food for jellyfish.

There also is speculation that China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric power project that is under construction in the Yangtze, could be changing water flows to the sea. The theory is based on the effect that a dam in a section of the Danube River in Europe had on the jellyfish population in the Black Sea. The dam, completed in 1972, runs between Serbia and Romania, and it changed the river’s flow when constructed. After the dam was complete, the jellyfish population of the Black Sea exploded.

Chinese officials and scientists deny that Chinese pollution has caused the outbreaks. “No research evidence in China supports a connection between pollution and jellyfish,” Ocean University of China Dean Li Qi said. “Floating jellyfish are mostly in the Sea of Japan … That’s Japan and Korea’s problem”

Scott November 27, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Happy birthday Milan!

Milan November 27, 2007 at 6:55 pm

Happy birthday Milan!

Thanks, though it is a few hours premature.

Milan November 27, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Speaking of the sea, things remain dire for bluefin tuna.

The news for bluefin tuna is rarely good.

Claire November 28, 2007 at 12:52 pm

I didn’t realise the Candian Parliament building looked so much like the UK houses of parliament. Did our forbears merely lack imagination, or were they cleverly piggy-backing on establshed semiotics? Hmm

. November 28, 2007 at 2:21 pm
Milan November 28, 2007 at 5:17 pm


Most of Canada’s Parliament is relatively recent. As I recall, almost all of it burned down in the early 20th century. Only the library was spared.

. November 29, 2007 at 2:59 pm

A jelly new world
An influx of jellies in strange places is not so hard to explain

First, global warming.

Second, overfishing.

Lastly, fish farming.

. December 12, 2007 at 10:37 am

Blue in green

Dec 10th 2007
From Economist.com
It’s time to put greens in their place

One way of getting blue issues on the agenda is to put more effort into finding out what is going on down there. To this end, a group calling itself the Partnership for Observation of Global Oceans (POGO), says it wants up to $3 billion to set up a proper global marine monitoring system which actually looks at what is going on under the ocean. Will it happen? Not if it is up to the Greens to decide.

. November 4, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Japanese fishing trawler sunk by giant jellyfish
A 10-ton fishing boat has been sunk by gigantic jellyfish off eastern Japan.

By Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Published: 7:00AM GMT 02 Nov 2009

The trawler, the Diasan Shinsho-maru, capsized off Chiba`as its three-man crew was trying to haul in a net containing dozens of huge Nomura’s jellyfish.

Each of the jellyfish can weigh up to 200 kg and waters around Japan have been inundated with the creatures this year. Experts believe weather and water conditions in the breeding grounds, off the coast of China, have been ideal for the jellyfish in recent months.

The crew of the fishing boat was thrown into the sea when the vessel capsized, but the three men were rescued by another trawler, according to the Mainichi newspaper. The local Coast Guard office reported that the weather was clear and the sea was calm at the time of the accident.

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