Washington: In a bid to improve satellite-based estimation of atmospheric carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans, NASA is embarking on a coordinated ship and aircraft observation campaign off the Atlantic coast of the US this week.
For three weeks, NASA`s Ship-Aircraft Bio-Optical Research (SABOR) experiment will bring together marine and atmospheric scientists to tackle the optical issues associated with satellite observations of phytoplankton.
"By improving our in-water and aircraft-based measurements of particles and material in the ocean, including phytoplankton, SABOR will advance understanding of marine ecology and the carbon cycle," said Paula Bontempi, ocean biology and biogeochemistry programme manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Researchers aboard the National Science Foundation`s Research Vessel Endeavor, operated by the University of Rhode Island, Friday will depart from Narragansett, Rhode Island, to study ocean ecosystems from the Gulf of Maine to the Bahamas.
NASA`s UC-12 airborne laboratory, based at NASA`s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, will make coordinated flights beginning Sunday.
Phytoplankton, tiny ocean plants that absorb carbon dioxide and deliver oxygen to Earth`s atmosphere, play a major role in the global cycling of atmospheric carbon between the ocean and the atmosphere.
Knowledge of the vertical distribution of phytoplankton is needed to understand their productivity, which largely drives the functioning of ocean ecosystems.
"The goal is to develop mathematical relationships that allow scientists to calculate the biomass of the phytoplankton from optical signals measured from space, and thus to be able to monitor how ocean phytoplankton change from year to year and figure out what causes these changes," Mike Behrenfeld from Oregon State University in Corvallis noted.