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State of the Global Ocean Observing System in 2021 – recovering from the pandemic

Date: 15 July 2021

The Observations Coordination Group of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) launches the new Ocean Observing System Report Card for 2021 - providing an up-to-date and global view of the status of the Global Ocean Observing System.

The 2021 Ocean Observing System Report Card has just been released. Each year this provides a key insight into the status of the Global Ocean Observing System, assessing observing networks’ progress, focusing on what is needed to meet the challenges and demands for ocean information, and encouraging collaborations and new partners to join the ocean observing community.

The 2021 Report focuses on several key areas:

  • impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on ocean observation activities and the remarkable effort of the international community to carry-on observing operations under pandemic restrictions 
  • monitoring ocean oxygen and deoxygenation – vital to ocean health and marine resources
  • status of the global ocean observing system and how we can meet key demands for ocean information

Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic

In 2020 and part of 2021, several ocean observing networks were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with an overall 10% decrease in real-time data distribution, much greater for some networks than others, and a 15% to 20% decrease in vital maintenance operations. Even today some of our most important mooring arrays are still at risk.

“Although the global ocean observing system showed great resilience to these impacts, due to the diversity of platforms, the increased use of autonomous instruments, as well as strong cooperation between operators, the overall impact and in particular the delays in operations will take a few years to be absorbed”, says Mathieu Belbéoch, OceanOPS Lead. 

“This year the global ocean observing system has continued to progress and evolve despite the significant challenges of responding to a global pandemic. Looking ahead, we must continue to increase cooperation and coordination across the international community, engage more fully with the private sector, and integrate more the local communities in ocean observing”, says Dr. David Legler, Chair of the GOOS Observations Coordination Group. 

Monitoring ocean oxygen and deoxygenation

“Rising deoxygenation is one of the most significant threats to the ocean. Access to continuous, quality data is critical to understanding and finding ways to address this challenge. It’s time to expand international collaboration to achieve global coverage of in situ oxygen observing networks”, says Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, IOC Executive Secretary.   

Despite the pandemic, 70 oxygen sensors were deployed on moorings in the North Atlantic and more than 100 Argo biogeochemical floats were launched across the world ocean, to monitor oxygen conditions and better understand the processes driving variability in the oxygen minimum zone. 

Closing gaps in ocean observing through focused cooperation and new technology

“Major gaps in data over the ocean hinder our ability to observe our changing climate and accurately forecast weather at sub-seasonal to seasonal timescales. We need to close those gaps and ensure the delivery of timely and accessible information available to all users”, says Professor Petteri Taalas WMO Secretary-General.

The implementation of the sustained and renovated backbone Tropical Pacific Observing System (TPOS) is essential to improve our prediction of El Niño/Southern Oscillation cycles and associated extreme events that have profound societal impacts around the globe. The new TPOS will provide enhanced capabilities for observing upper ocean and air-sea interactions across a diversity of climate regimes, based on enhanced moorings configuration, and a doubling of Argo floats density. It recommends specific observations for the low-latitude western boundary currents and the eastern Pacific where extreme El Niño events develop and will enable a major gain in biogeochemical sampling. 

The TPOS 2020 project will provide substantial input to the World Meteorological Organization Integrated Global Observing System and help close gaps in ocean observations. 

“Testing and entraining new lower-cost technologies and multidisciplinary observations globally will enable new discoveries, monitor changes in remote parts of the ocean, and increase system capability and resiliency”, says Dr. Legler.

Recently, a new generation of wave measuring surface drifters, crucial to understand the role of wave dynamics in ocean-atmosphere coupling, were air-deployed by the Lagrangian Drifter Laboratory (LDL) at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), under hurricanes and atmospheric rivers, and with ships in areas of intense ocean cooling. 

“The buoy is made either with recycled or biodegradable plastics and it represents a very cost-effective solution for global wave measurements”, says Dr. Luca Centurioni, Director of the LDL, and developer of the surface wave drifters.

The Ocean Observing System Report Card was prepared by OceanOPS and the GOOS Observations Coordination Group. 

The Ocean Observing System Report Card is available at: http://ocean-ops.org/reportcard2021

  
For more information, please contact:
erusciano@ocean-ops.org
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