Oregon State involved in global ocean observatory system

map of mooring sites to be created off the Oregon and Washington coasts

Map of mooring sites to be created off the Oregon and Washington coasts

Oregon State will join the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in leading the coastal element of a global ocean observing network, part of which will operate off the Oregon and Washington coasts. The involvement comes after an agreement between NSF and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership to support the Ocean Observatories Initiative.

OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences will coordinate the development and operation of three observatory sites off Newport,  and three sites off Grays Harbor, Wash. OSU researchers will receive approximately $14 million over the next five years to develop and deploy a system of surface moorings, seafloor platforms and undersea gliders that will give scientists an unprecedented look at how the ocean responds to changes in climate.

OSU oceanographers leading the project say there are a number of scientific themes that will be central to the observatory. They include:

  • The ocean-atmosphere exchange of energy during high storms and winds, giving scientists better climate change models and storm predicting ability;
  • A better understanding of climate change, especially the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle, and the impacts of climate variability on ocean circulation, acidification, food webs, ecosystem structures, and weather;
  • How the mixing of water, heat and energy affect plankton growth and distribution, and the transport of carbon to the deep ocean;
  • The role of coastal margins in the global carbon cycles and the dynamics of episodic events including hypoxia, harmful algal blooms and El Niño/La Niña;
  • The role of the ocean crust in carbon cycling, heat exchange, and the formation of methane gas and hydrates, as well as the role hydrothermal vents play in ocean chemistry (including acidification) and the unique biological communities associated with them;
  • Tectonic plate dynamics, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and tsunamis.

For more info, check out a longer writeup of the project, as well as a sidebar on ocean observation.

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