U.S. Fleet Used To Track Climate Change Shrinking, New Study Says

2017-10-27T17:26:15+00:00 October 27, 2017|

(Click to enlarge) NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown at sea (Photo credit: NOAA)

According to the study released last week by the National Academies of Sciences, titled “Sustaining Ocean Observations to Understand Future Changes in Earth’s Climate,” the U.S. must expand its fleet of research vessels to accurately measure and assess the effects of climate change.

(From The Weather Channel / By Pam Wright) — “The decreasing number of global and ocean class research vessels is creating a shortfall in the infrastructure required for sampling the global ocean and expanding collection into the polar regions,” the committee noted. “These vessels are indispensable to the ocean observing system.”

Robert Weller of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts and co-chair of the committee that conducted the study told weather.com that large vessels are an integral component of the multi-faceted observational system used to monitor climate change. 

Weller noted that about 15 years ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had three large ships that roamed the oceans collecting samples and data. A plan was devised to replace those ships when they came to the end of their approximate 30-year life cycle with two new ships, but only the Ronald H. Brown was built. Today it is the sole large ship carrying out observations.

“NOAA is really hard-pressed to operate with just one ship,” Weller said, noting that a similar scenario is playing out with other agencies that provide ships for the fleet. For example, the Navy replaced some of its retiring ships with smaller vessels, Weller said. 

In the past, Weller said, researchers believed autonomous sampling from smaller vessels would remove the need for people aboard the larger vessels, but that has proven to be false. 

“For a number of reasons, there is probably an even greater demand for ships now,” Weller said, noting the increasingly ice-free polar oceans, which are dangerous and require larger vessels to maneuver in the choppy waters. 

Read the full story here: https://weather.com/science/environment/news/2017-10-23-climate-change-fleet-shrinking-global-warming