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Open Ocean Observation with German contribution: current status and future needs

Towards a national infrastructure for the observation of the open ocean

Comprehensive and sustained open-ocean observing is a collaborative, global effort that can only be achieved through an international partnership. To overcome challenges in observing technology, observing logistics but also to ensure the optimal use of resources and data availability a high level coordination of ocean observing is realized in the ‘Global Ocean Observing System’ (GOOS) established by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the UNESCO. Ocean observations efforts led by German institutions provide significant contributions to the GOOS addressing observing targets such as the ocean and its role in the climate system, ecosystem functioning and biodiversity, but also geodynamics and geohazards. At least 12 open ocean observatories are maintained as long-term time series projects and 6 more are in a planning stage.

The knowledge generated by German ocean observations represent a major national contribution to the main societal challenges connected to changes in climate and the earth system as a whole, as well as sustained use of resources including biodiversity.

Servicing of the existing open ocean observatories requires already now more than 12 months of ship time of the German research vessel fleet every year. Regionally, German ocean observing has a focus on the Atlantic with strong components in the adjoining polar seas. But observing also includes the other oceans, and in particular the Asian monsoon areas represent target areas for research.

Advancing ocean observation technologies is a key task that often involves joint efforts of public institutions and German enterprises. The developments include sensors, vehicles, and infrastructure solutions considering multiple variables with modular systems with reduced power requirements, e.g., for observations of bioacoustics, seabed physics, and ecosystem observations in ice-covered regions.

Strategies for improving integration of German open ocean observation activities

Generally, ocean observing in Germany is science-driven, nationally funded, and conducted in collaboration between universities and research institutions. At a KDM ocean observing workshop in the Maritime Museum in Hamburg in June 2013 a need for improved national coordination via KDM was identified. Key goals are better visibility of activities as well as strategic development and integration of open ocean observatories, including its international dimensions. Further tasks include an improved standardization of technologies, data accessibility and enhancement of multidisciplinary dimension of the observations.

A strategy group on open ocean observations was initiated under the umbrella of KDM. First tasks will include the provision of harmonized descriptions of the individual ocean observation programs and the preparation of a community white paper on strategies and targets of future open ocean observation activities in Germany with links to the German coastal observatory community and international ocean observatory programs (e.g., Neptune, Donet, KM3Net, OOI, OceanSITES, GCOS, GOOS). Topical working groups formed and contact persons were identified:

• Ocean and climate (Johannes Karstensen, GEOMAR)
• Ecosystem functions and biodiversity (Antje Boetius & Felix Janssen, AWI)
• Geodynamics und geohazards (Gerhard Bohrmann, MARUM at Bremen University)
• Ocean observatory technology (Christoph Waldmann, MARUM; Oliver Zielinski, ICBM Uni Oldenburg)


Map showing open ocean observation efforts under the auspices of German institutions. The quartered circles indicate positions of the observatories / observation programs and the main disciplines served (legend in lower left corner of the map). White lines and boxes next to the circles indicate areas or transects where multipoint observations are carried out. The numbers in the map refer to the below list of observatories

List of German Open Ocean Observations efforts


01.      K1 (contact: Johannes Karstensen/GEOMAR, ed.ramoeg@nesnetsrakj)
02.      53°N array (contact: Johannes Karstensen/GEOMAR, ed.ramoeg@nesnetsrakj)
03.      Subpolar observatory NOAC 47°N (contact: Monika Rhein/Bremen University, ed.nemerb-inu.kisyhp//@niehrm & Birgit Klein/BSH Hamburg, ed.hsb//@nielk.tigrib)
04.      Subpolar observatory NOAC Mid Atlantic Ridge (contact: Monika Rhein/Bremen University, ed.nemerb-inu.kisyhp@niehrm & Birgit Klein/BSH Hamburg, ed.hsb@nielk.tigrib           )
05.      CIS (contact: Johannes Karstensen/GEOMAR, ed.ramoeg//@nesnetsrakj)
06.      Denmark Strait observatory (contact: Kerstin Jochumsen/Hamburg University, ed.wamz//@nesmuhcoj.nitsrek)
07.      Faroe Bank observatory (contact: Kerstin Jochumsen/Hamburg University, ed.wamz@nesmuhcoj.nitsrek)
08.      North Pond observatory (contact: Wolfgang Bach/Bremen University, ed.nemerb-inu//@hcabw)
09.      Mid-Atlantic Ridge observatory Logatchev (contact: Colin Devey/GEOMAR,ed.ramoeg//@yevedc)
10.      Mid-Atlantic Ridge observatory 5°S (contact: Colin Devey/GEOMAR,ed.ramoeg@yevedc)
11.      Mid-Atlantic Ridge observatory 9°S (contact: Colin Devey/GEOMAR,ed.ramoeg@yevedc)
12.      Azores Observatory / Kiel 276 mooring (contact: Joanna Waniek/IOW, ed.edneumenraw-oi//@keinaw.annaoj)
13.      European Station Time series ESTOC C.I. (contact: Gerrit Meinecke/MARUM, ed.muram//@ekceniemg)
14.      Cape Blanc moorings and dust buoy  (contact: Gerhard Fischer/MARUM, ed.muram//@rehcsifg)
15.      Cape Verde ocean and atmosphere observatories CVOO & CVAO (contact: Cordula Zenk/GEOMAR, ed.ramoeg//@knezc)
16.      Equatorial current system observatory (contact: Peter Brandt/GEOMAR, ed.ramoeg//@tdnarbp)
17.      Western boundary current observatory contact: Peter Brandt/GEOMAR, ed.ramoeg@tdnarbp)

Arctic / Antarctica

18.      FRAM physical oceanography array (contact: Torsten Kanzow/AWI, ed.ramoeg//@woznak.netsrot)
19.      FRAM ecosystem observations / HAUSGARTEN (contact: Thomas Soltwedel/AWI, ed.iwa//@ledewtloS.samohT)
20.      Laptevsee observatory (contact: Jens Hölemann/AWI, ed.iwa//@nnameleoh.snej)
21.      Weddell Sea observatory (contact: Gerd Rohardt/AWI,ed.iwa//@tdrahoR.dreG )
22.      Weddel sea passive acoustic monitoring PALAOA & HAFOS (contact: Olaf Boebel/AWI, ed.iwa//@lebeob.falo)

Indian Ocean

23.      Arabian Sea particle trap mooring (contact: Birgit Gaye/Hamburg University, ed.wamz//@eyag.tigrib)
24.      Bay of Bengal particle trap mooring (contact: Birgit Gaye/Hamburg University, ed.wamz@eyag.tigrib)

Pacific Ocean

25.      South China Sea particle trap mooring (contact: Birgit Gaye/Hamburg University, ed.wamz@eyag.tigrib)
26.      Nankai Trough seabed observatories CORK  (contact: Achim Kopf/MARUM, ed.muram//@fpoka)
27.      Juan de Fuca seabed observatories CORK (contact: Achim Kopf/MARUM, ed.muram@fpoka)
28.      Clarion Clipperton Fracture Zone polymetallic nodule field observatories (contact: Carsten Rühlemann/BGR,ed.rgb//@nnamelheur.c )