How does climate change affect life 3000 feet below sea level? Take a look through the Ocean Research and Conservation Association’s “Eye-in-the-Sea ” and see for yourself. The casual viewer will not likely notice anything out of the ordinary but for the scientists and researchers who continually monitor the real-time data, the Eye-in-the-sea can literally shed light on key climate change indicators. The camera, which weighs in at a modest 502 pounds, illuminates the ocean in front of it using “far-red” lights. This lighting system does not disturb local sea-life as it operates at a luminescence invisible to undersea animals – an important feature of the camera since deep-sea animals are often very sensitive to light. This week ClimatePULSE will take a look at the Eye-in-the-sea technology and a few other facts about climate change and the ocean.
It is very easy to forget about what happens in the ocean in terms of global warming, as we rarely see the effects. However, the ocean has many crucial ties to climate change. One of the biggest fears resulting from global warming relates to rising sea levels as ice caps melt away. Large bodies of water all around the world store great amount of greenhouse gases. Changes to water temperatures increase the intensity and frequency of tsunamis, hurricanes, and typhoons. “University of California geophysics professor has stated “With rising sea levels as a result of ocean warming and ice caps melting, we need better observations recorded regularly and openly to better quantify what’s happening to the oceans and the planet.”
The Eye-in-the-sea is certainly a step in the right direction and its success will likely help pave the way for additional cameras and devices in the future. The Eye-in-the-sea is connected to the Monterey Accelerated Research Station (MARS), an under-water hub providing network access and power to the camera 24 hours a day. Also attached to the MARS is an instrument which measures ocean acidity.
Increasing acidity in the ocean, which results from the absorption of CO2, is a major threat and capable of wiping out marine life. Warming waters result in decreased oxygen concentrations, as cooler water is able to hold more oxygen. Low-oxygen areas within the ocean are known as “dead zones” and a new study has carried out computer simulations which suggests that dead zones could last for millennia. A second major effect of increasing acidity is greater ocean noise. Higher acidity levels allow sound to travel farther within the ocean, making it more difficult for marine animals to communicate – a problem that likely would have gone unnoticed in the absence of deep-sea monitoring.
Monitoring and information-gathering is crucial to combating climate change. Technology is continually being developed and implemented, from the Eye-in-the-sea all the way up to the GOSAT. Deep-sea monitoring equipment such as the Eye-in-the-sea and the MARS show great steps forward in the development of monitoring technology while at the same time providing scientists with practical information to understand and model the effects of climate change throughout the Earth’s oceans.