Understanding the exposure of the nation’s living marine resources such as shellfish and corals to changing ocean chemistry is a primary goal for the NOAA OAP. Repeat hydrographic surveys, ship-based surface observations, and time series stations (mooring and ship-based) in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans have allowed us to begin to understand the long-term changes in carbonate chemistry in response to ocean acidification.

Buoys & Moorings

There are currently 19 OAP-supported buoys in coastal, open-ocean and coral reef waters which contribute to NOAA's Ocean Acidification Monitoring Program, with other deployments planned.

Currently, there are two types of floating devices which instruments can be added in order to measure various ocean characteristics - buoys and wave gliders. Buoys are moored, allowing them to remain stationary and for scientists to get measurements from the same place over time. The time series created from these measurements are key to understanding how ocean chemistry is changing over time. There are also buoys moored in the open-ocean and near coral reef ecosystems to monitor the changes in the carbonate chemistry in these ecosystems. The MAP CO2 sensors on these buoys measure pCO2 every three hours.

Access our buoy data


Ship surveys

Research cruises are a way to collect information about a certain ecosystem or area of interest.

For decades, scientists have learned about physical, chemical and biological properties of the ocean and coasts by observations made at sea. Measurements taken during research cruises can be used to validate data taken by autonomous instruments. One instrument often used on research cruises is a conductivity, temperature, and depth sensor (CTD), which measures the physical state of the water (temperature, salinity, and depth). The sensor often goes in the water on a rosette, which also carries niskin bottles used to collect water samples from various depths in the water column. Numerous chemical and biological properties can be measured from water collected in niskin bottles.

Ships of Opportunity

Ships of Opportunity (SOPs) or Volunteer Observing Ships (VOSs) are vessels at sea for other reasons than ocean acidification studies, such as commercial cargo ships or ferries.

The owners of these vessels allow scientific instrumentation that measures ocean acidification (OA) parameters to be installed and collect data while the ship is underway. This allows data on ocean chemistry to be collected in many remote areas of the world's ocean, such as high latitude waters, long distances from land (e.g. mid-basin waters), and places not easily accessible by research cruises. These partnerships have greatly increased the spatial coverage of OA monitoring world-wide. To learn more, check out the Ships of Opportunity programs established by the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) and the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic Marine Laboratory (AOML).

Wave Gliders

Scientists at the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) are working with engineers at Liquid Robotics, Inc. to optimize a Carbon Wave Glider.

This instrument (pictured above) can be driven via satellite from land. Carbon Wave Gliders can be outfitted with pCO2, pH, oxygen, temperature and salinity sensors, and the glider’s equipment takes measurements as it moves through the water. The glider’s motion is driven by wave energy, and its sensors are powered through solar cells and batteries, when needed.


NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) in partnership with OAP is engaged in a coordinated and targeted series of field observations, moorings and ecological monitoring efforts in coral reef ecosystems.

These efforts are designed to document the dynamics of ocean acidification (OA) in coral reef systems and track the status and trends in ecosystem response. This effort serves as a subset of a broader CRCP initiative referred to as the National Coral Reef Monitoring Plan, which was established to support conservation of the Nation’s coral reef ecosystems. The OAP contributes to this plan through overseeing and coordinating carbonate chemistry monitoring. This monitoring includes a broadly distributed spatial water sampling campaign complemented by a more limited set of moored instruments deployed at a small subset of representative sites in both the Atlantic/Caribbean and Pacific regions. Coral reef carbonate chemistry monitoring is implemented by researchers at the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and NOAA's PIFSC Coral Reef Ecosystems Division.




NOAA and Partners Launch Research Cruise of East Coast to Study Ocean Acidification

By: NOAA Ocean Acidification Program

Author: Anonym/Monday, June 22, 2015/Categories: ocean acidification, OA monitoring

Rate this article:
No rating

NOAA and partners launch research cruise of East Coast to study ocean acidification

NOAA and scientists from Princeton, Old Dominion University, and the Universities of New Hampshire, Delaware, and Miami set off on June 19th from Newport, Rhode Island aboard NOAA ship Gordon Gunter on a research cruise to better understand ocean acidification and its drivers along the U.S. East Coast. 

The R/V Gordon Gunter stationed in Newport, RI will be surveying carbonate chemistry on a 34 day research cruise,which began in the Canadian Maritime waters and will end along the Florida coast. Principal investigators of the expedition are Dr. Joe Salisbury from University of New Hampshire and Dr. Janet Reimer from University of Delaware Photo credit: Marc Emond, University of New Hampshire.  

This research cruise is just one part of a larger effort supported by the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program to better understand how ocean chemistry along all the U.S. coasts is changing in response to ocean acidification and where marine organisms may be at greatest risk. Similar cruises have taken place on the U.S. West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Understanding why and how fast our ocean chemistry is changing in different areas will allow scientists to better predict future changes and explore ways to adapt to those shifts.

The Gunter will travel north to survey the waters of the Nova Scotia Shelf and will then steam south, surveying waters close to shore to provide more detailed information about water chemistry within the Gulf of Maine, Long Island Sound, the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Bight regions than previous surveys. The ship will also investigate central Florida waters before reaching Miami on July 24.”

“We will be covering a larger area of the East Coast and going much closer to shore than ever before so that we can better understand the many factors contributing to ocean acidification,” said Dwight Gledhill, Deputy Director of the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program.  

This is the first time that scientists will get an in depth view of the waters in the Gulf of Maine. 

“Understanding the chemistry of water on the Scotian Shelf is critical for us to understand how ocean acidification might unfold in Maine,” Gledhill says, “The Labrador Current, which flows over the shelf and into this region is freshening due to climate change and increased Arctic ice melt. These fresher waters are more corrosive, so understanding how that will affect Maine waters is an important part of this survey.”” 

By collecting and analyzing water samples in near shore and deeper waters, scientists will better understand what drives the process of ocean acidification in different areas of the East Coast shelf. Another area new to the survey is Long Island Sound, an urbanized estuary, which is known to become acidic with low oxygen or hypoxia events. This is the first time that both carbon dioxide and oxygen, along with nutrient levels will be measured in these waters. These measurements may give insight into how nutrient run off from land based activities will impact seawater chemistry in this area. 

The CTD/rosette is an instrument that is deployed into the water to measure conductivity, temperature and density.  This rosette has a mascot for good luck at sea; "Betty" the praying mantis. Photo credit: Marc Emond, University of New Hampshire.

The ship and its crew will hug the coast as they proceed South and will be coordinating with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take measurements in very near shore waters that are too shallow for the Gunter to reach. In both Narragansett and Delaware Bays, scientists from the EPA will continue with measurements landward of the Gunter’s coastal station in coastal waters. This Mid- Atlantic Shelf region is important for sea scallop production, a significant resource and important fishery and component of the economy in this region.  

The ship will come to port in Norfolk, Va., on July 4 before continuing south. Throughout the entire survey, scientists on board will also look at how single-celled marine plants, or phytoplankton, affect ocean chemistry. Tracking ocean acidification which is caused in large part by an increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, demands careful determination of not only the marine carbonate system, but also a suite of measures that give insight into the key organisms which can modify the chemistry. Both photosynthesis and respiration of these small marine plants and other tiny organisms can alter carbon dioxide levels in the water.

Scientists will measure both carbon and oxygen in the water to better understand how they affect the growth of phytoplankton that are at the base of the food chain. Phytoplankton are not only important to the marine food chain, but these marine plants also control carbon chemistry. Scientists from the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) are working to use satellite capabilities to “see” the kind phytoplankton in the ocean by identifying the color of the ocean. Researchers on board the Gunter will sample phytoplankton in the water as a NASA satellite measures the ocean’s color in the same location.

“There are only a few things you can measure from space such as temperature, salinity and ocean color,” says Gledhill. “If we can confirm what phytoplankton are in the water at the same time the satellite is over head, while also measuring carbon chemistry this could allow scientists to relate changes in carbon chemistry to the types of phytoplankton in the water sometime in the future.”

This cruise will cover new areas and get more in depth information along the U.S. East Coast to understand the factors that influence ocean and coastal acidification. Because the East Coast has a broad shallow shelf, potentially corrosive, freshwater discharge out of rivers into the coastal ocean could be a major contributor to changing ocean chemistry. This survey will allow scientists to understand how fresher waters, coastal influences, and phytoplankton may alter our ocean chemistry. This environmental information on ocean acidification is essential to predicting its effects on important marine resources, so that communities can mitigate and adapt to these changes.


Number of views (5391)/Comments (0)

Please login or register to post comments.