As we consider means to ensure the ocean’s health, sustainability, and productivity, I am repeatedly reminded that innovation (on the scale we need for the ocean) must be a team sport. This was exemplified last week by a panel of ocean innovators who I had the honor of moderating during a Senate Ocean Caucus briefing on Capitol Hill hosted by the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Association, one of COL’s member institutions. The briefing, “Coastal Innovations: Enhancing Security, Economy and the Environment,” explored ongoing efforts in ocean and Great Lakes observing and monitoring that promise great benefits to maritime security and economy. “Marine bees,” ocean glider fleets, rapidly responsive shellfish hatcheries, “smart” ships and ports linked to ocean observations, and groundbreaking public-private partnerships to counter and mitigate threats (such as harmful algal blooms) are just a few of the topics we explored. I was a bit surprised, but encouraged, that many in the audience were quite literally agape at the ocean innovations they heard about.
All this technology and teamwork relates directly to the research, development, education, and outreach occurring every day at COL academic institutions, industries, laboratories, aquaria, and associates across the nation and beyond. All aspects of our nation’s security – national, homeland, economic, energy, food, health, etc. – are closely linked to our ocean (and inland waters) in myriad ways and can be summed up in my mind as “ocean security.” As an intelligent species, we have proven throughout human history that knowledge and resulting invention have profoundly enabled and enhanced our security and prosperity. Given what we all understand about the current state of our ocean, innovation may well be the most critical means to ensure future ocean security and thus the need to grow, resource, and champion our ocean visionaries and the hope they inspire. I’m looking forward to continuing this discussion this week as I head to MTS/IEEE’s conference, OCEANS ’17. Be sure to come by booth 722 and say hello if you will also be at the meeting.
RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.)
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
How Openings In Antarctic Sea Ice Affect Worldwide Climate
In 1974, images acquired from NOAA satellites revealed a puzzling phenomenon: a 250,000 square kilometer opening in the winter sea ice in the Weddell Sea, south of South America. The opening, known as a polynya, persisted over three winters. Such expansive ice-free areas in the ocean surrounding Antarctica have not been seen since, though a small polynya was seen last year. In a new analysis of climate models, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Spain’s Institute of Marine Sciences and Johns Hopkins University reveal the significant global effects that these seemingly anomalous polynyas can have.