The ocean plays a vital role in the global climate system, and as a result human activity is both affected by and contributes to changes to the ocean. Marine ecosystems are crucial for maintaining biodiversity, accounting for 90% of the habitable space on the planet. They also produce over 50% of the planet’s oxygen and provide a source of food and medicine. As a consequence of its capacity to act as a carbon sink, ocean acidification is rapidly changing marine environments. As global temperatures increase, sea levels are rising, affecting the livelihoods of coastal communities. Understanding the state of the ocean requires frequent, global observations of physical, biological and chemical variables. Very small changes in these variables can have significant impacts on ocean systems, so characterising the ocean presents many significant measurement challenges.
Our ocean section covers the metrological contribution to support in situ measurements of Global Climate Observing System (GCOS) Oceanic Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) along with the broader Essential Ocean Variables defined by the Global Ocean Observing System. These include physical (e.g. temperature, salinity, currents, ice), biogeochemical (e.g. dissolved gases and nutrients, acidification, particulate matter and tracers) and biological (e.g. phytoplankton, ocean sound) variables. Alongside climate applications, the Ocean Observation section reflects the broader variety of economic, societal, and environmental perspectives relating to the sustainable use of ocean resources.
Examples of measurement science for oceans can be found in the selected case studies below: