NASA approves plan to conduct ocean carbon cycle study

NASA approves plan to conduct ocean carbon cycle study

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US: NASA has recently approved a plan, according to which, a team of researchers will conduct a study on the state of the ocean carbon cycle through remote sensing. Hence, a team will be formed that will include researchers from UCSB and other institutions. The knowledge gained through the E.X.P.O.R.T.S. (EXport Processes in the Ocean from RemoTe Sensing) program, will help predict how future changes in the ocean’s sequestration of carbon will alter the global carbon cycle.

The plan appeared in the Frontiers in Medical Science journal, and is described in detail on the NASA website. “What we’re trying to understand is the residence time of carbon in the oceans,” said David Siegel, lead author of E.X.P.O.R.T.S. and director of the Earth Research Institute at UCSB.

There are several pathways in which carbon travels within ocean food webs, which lead to significant differences in the vertical transport of carbon in the ocean interior. This variability of the oceans’ ecosystems is what makes quantifying carbon difficult. Depending on how and where it is released back into the ocean can make the difference of whether it will cycle back within a few days or will become organic matter created by phytoplankton that stays in the ocean for decades.

Siegel elaborated on the difficulties of a project that deals with immense global ecosystems.

“We have to care about things phytoplankton eat, the types of phytoplankton there are, how there are many animals that migrate vertically in the ocean,” Siegel said. “And then you have all these physical processes that are very complicated.”

Siegel said E.X.P.O.R.T.S. will measure major pathways and use the data collected to compare systems.

“So the idea is to measure major pathways at the same time, at a same place, at different stages and by doing so we can compare different systems,” Siegel said.

The E.X.P.O.R.T.S. plan integrates ship, autonomous robot and satellite observations of carbon cycling processes, along with data mining of previous observations and numerical modeling, in order to improve predictive understanding of the export of global ocean primary production. E.X.P.O.R.T.S. will quantify export pathways using multi-ship field deployments, which will observe several ecosystem and carbon cycling states during a 30 to 45-day cruise. These deployments are planned to take place in the Northeast Pacific and North Atlantic oceans.

The overall objective for E.X.P.O.R.T.S. is to ensure the success of these future satellite mission goals by establishing relationships between remotely sensed signals and carbon cycle processes. Through a process-oriented approach, E.X.P.O.R.T.S. will bring new insights into ocean carbon cycling that will maximize its societal relevance and be a key component in understanding Earth as an integrated system.

Source: Daily Nexus