Study in Progress

Sustaining Ocean Observations Phase 2: Workshop

The National Academies is conducting Phase 2 of the Sustaining Ocean Observations activity. An ad hoc committee will plan a workshop to explore partnership and organizational models to foster efficiency, continuity, and quality of the most critical ocean observations to support the broad spectrum of applications and users, both now and in the future. This workshop is a follow up to a 2017 National Academies report, Sustaining Ocean Observations to Understand Future Changes in Earth's Climate, which described the value of the global ocean observing system and identified current challenges in sustaining ocean observations in the long term.

This workshop is sponsored by the Department of Energy, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Academies Gulf Research Program, and Shell (anticipated).

Statement of Task

Phase 1

Maintaining long-term, continuous, ocean-data records for understanding, monitoring changes in, and modeling climate changes are essential, yet, challenging. An ad hoc committee will consider processes for identifying and characterizing the most critical, long-term ocean observations (including arrays of distributed platforms) and identify limitations of the current approaches.

When considering the various processes for selecting and characterizing high-priority, long-term ocean observations, the committee will discuss potential factors such as:

Accuracy, precision, frequency, and spatial resolution of observations;
Duration of observations (e.g., what criteria would be used to determine when observations should be sustained at high priority, are no longer needed for a given parameter or when an observation would be superseded by a different type of observation, for example through a new/different technology);
Inherent value and/or tradeoffs of increasing multidisciplinary observations across a limited number of networks/platforms vs initiating additional observing systems;
Complementarity of an observation to another set of observations (or network); and
Current or near-future technology that could be used to develop a more cost-effective observational system.

The committee's report will identify challenges to maintaining long-term observations and suggest avenues for potential improvement. During the study, the committee will convene a workshop to gather expert opinions on the process for prioritizing long-term, ocean climate observations and discuss international approaches to selecting and sustaining ocean observations, as well as other topics important for the design of sustainable, long-term ocean observing systems.

Phase 2 Workshop:
Based on the outcome of Phase 1, a separate ad hoc steering committee (with some overlap in membership with the Phase 1 committee) will be appointed to organize a workshop to discuss potential options for aligning resources to ensure continuity and quality of critical ocean observations over the long term. This Phase 2 committee will structure the workshop to cover a range of options for expanding support, such as public-private partnerships with industry and philanthropy. Other topics could include scientific oversight, coordination of U.S. and international observing initiatives, and diversification of funding. A summary of the presentations and discussions at the workshop will be prepared by a designated rapporteur in accordance with institutional guidelines.