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.
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
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 (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).
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.
Ocean Acidification on a Crossroad: Enhanced Respiration, Upwelling, Increasing Atmospheric CO2, and their interactions in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico
Why we care
In the coastal ocean, local drivers such as nutrient input and physical oceanographic changes impact the magnitude of short-term variations and long-term trends in ocean acidification. The Gulf of Mexico’s coral reefs and banks are ecologically sensitive to changing ocean chemistry. Decadal acidification has been observed in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico, linked more strongly to biological production of carbon dioxide than uptake of human-emitted carbon dioxide. Whether the observed acidification in this region represents a short-term phenomenon or a long-term trend is unknown. This project maintains critical ocean acidification monitoring in a region with impacted habitats and species.
What we are doing
This project will test the hypothesis that enhanced atmospheric carbon dioxide, nutrient input, and upwelling will cause the continental shelf-slope region in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico to acidify faster than other tropical and subtropical seas. The research team will incorporate observations from new large-scale surveys into oceanographic and statistical models that predict variation in ocean acidification over space and time.
Benefits of our work
The outcomes of this project will meet the long-term goal of optimizing ocean acidification monitoring in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico and will document methodology that can be used in similar efforts in the future. This project will examine an area in the poorly understood Gulf of Mexico Large Marine Ecosystem, produce the first ever high-resolution dataset in surface and subsurface waters, and direct the future deployment of in-situ monitoring devices in this ecologically and economically important region.
Among the NOAA designated Large Marine Ecosystems, the Gulf
of Mexico (GOM) remains poorly understood in terms of its current OA conditions, despite its
ecological and economic significance. In the northwestern GOM (nwGOM), decadal
acidification has been observed in the shelf-slope region, with metabolic production of CO2
contributing to a larger fraction of CO2 accumulation than uptake of anthropogenic CO2, and the
observed rate of acidification is significantly greater than that in other tropical and subtropical
areas. Unfortunately, whether the observed OA in this region represents a short-term
phenomenon or a long-term trend is unknown.
It is hypothesized that increasing atmospheric CO2, increasing terrestrial nutrient export
due to an enhanced hydrological cycle, and enhanced upwelling due to climate change will cause
the continental shelf-slope region in the nwGOM to acidify faster than other tropical and
subtropical seas. In order to test this hypothesis wave gliders, in -stiu sensor along withe underway measurements from research vessels will measure carbonated chemistry in in surface and shallow waters. Modeling will be used tp integrate the chemical signals into the models to hindcast/predict spatia; and temporal variation of the OA signal for the the optimization of monitoring design and implementation.
Humans have had a significant influence on estuaries through land use change and increased use of fertilizers, causing proliferation of algal blooms, hypoxia, and presence of harmful microbes. Now, acidification due to myriad processes has been identified as a potential threat to many estuaries. In Texas estuaries for example, short-term acidification as a result of episodic hypoxia is a well-documented phenomenon. Unfortunately, a longer-term trend toward chronic acidification (decreasing alkalinity, pH) has now been observed. The alkalinity decrease is likely caused by a reduction in riverine alkalinity export due to precipitation declines under drought conditions and freshwater diversions for human consumption.
Based on our existing long-term data, we hypothesize that hydrology acts as a switch, where increased river flows cause hypoxia and short-term acidification due to increased loads of organic matter, whereas prolonged low flows cause long-term acidification due to reduced loads of riverine alkalinity and calcification. In urbanized, wastewater-influenced systems, we hypothesize that reduced flows out of the watershed may lead to long-term acidification and chronic hypoxia due to reduced loads of riverine alkalinity and presence of low pH, high nutrient/organic matter wastewater.
To test our hypotheses, field and modeling studies are proposed to examine the relationships between estuarine acidification and other stressors (i.e., reduced freshwater inflow, hypoxia, and nutrient loading). Analysis of changes in ecosystem health and model calibration will be conducted based on long-term data. Mechanistic linkages between acidification, eutrophication and flow will be quantified through a field campaign. Chemical markers of organic matter sources fueling hypoxia will be determined. Future ecological states of the estuaries will be predicted using ecosystem models that account for projected changes in aforementioned parameters and ocean conditions based on IPCC estimates. The combination of prediction and consequence will be useful to multiple stakeholder groups.
This project will provide time-series observations of coastal ocean pH and carbon system properties, along with other variables that affect carbon transformations, in the northern Gulf of Mexico in support of goals elucidated in the NOAA Ocean and Great Lakes Acidification Research Implementation Plan. This project most directly addresses Theme 1: Develop the monitoring capacity to quantify and track ocean acidification in open-ocean, coastal, and Great Lake systems, but also addresses the educational objectives of Theme 6. USM will maintain a 3- m discus buoy in the northern Gulf of Mexico with a PMEL MAPCO2 system that includes a CTD, dissolved oxygen, and pH sensors. Meteorological sensors on the buoy will be utilized for computing air-sea fluxes of CO2. Water samples and continuous vertical profiles will be taken at the buoy site during quarterly cruises. Water samples will be analyzed for DIC, TA, pH, dO, S, NUTS and chlorophyll a. Analyzed water samples and profile data will be submitted to NODC through standard NOAA OAP submission spreadsheets containing both data and associated metadata.
While this work is focused on the Gulf of Mexico additional time-series sites in the South Atlantic Bight and Gulf of Maine can provide a comparison over a wide range of coastal and latitudinal regimes. The northern Gulf of Mexico, Florida and South Atlantic Bight regions are all commonly influenced by one contiguous western boundary current system, which originates with the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico and then becomes the Gulf Stream along the southeastern U.S. continental shelf. The Gulf of Mexico observations will be compared with the other western boundary current influenced site in the South Atlantic Bight maintained by the University of Georgia (UGA) and the high latitude site in the Gulf of Maine maintained by the University of New Hampshire (UNH).
Analysis of the data collected during the first (2007) and the second (2012) Gulf of Mexico and East Coast Carbon (GOMECC) cruises showed measurable temporal pH and aragonite saturation state (ΩAr) changes along the eight major transects. However, it is challenging to determine how much of this temporal change between the two cruises is due to ocean acidification and how much is due to variability on seasonal to interannual scales. Indeed, the expected 2% average decrease in ΩAr due to increasing atmospheric CO2 levels over the 5-year period was largely overshadowed by local and regional variability from changes in ocean circulation, remineralization/respiration and riverine inputs (Wanninkhof et al., 2015). Therefore, in order to provide useful products for the ocean acidification (OA) research community and resource managers, it is important to filter out seasonal cycles and other variability from the multi-annual trend. Here, we propose to use a high-resolution regional ocean-biogeochemistry model simulation for the period of 1979 - present day (real-time run) to fill the temporal gap between the 1st and 2nd GOMECC cruise data. In addition we will fine-tune and validate the model by using extensive surface water pCO2 observations from the ships of opportunity in the coastal region (SOOP-OA), and using the carbon observations from the East Coast Ocean Acidification Cruises (ECOA-1) and OAP mooring stations and from remotely sensed data. Then, we will use the real-time model run to estimate the 5-year trends (2012 – 2007) of OA and the carbon and biogeochemical variables along the East and Gulf coasts of the U.S. We will also examine the future OA variability in the East and Gulf coasts of the U.S. by downscaling the future climate projections under different emission scenarios developed for the IPCC-AR5. Based on the results obtained from the proposed model simulations, we will contribute to an observational strategy suitable for elucidating multi-annual trend of carbon and biogeochemical variables along the East and Gulf coasts of the U.S.