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The ocean absorbs approximately 25% of humankind’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. While this reduces the accumulation of this greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, slowing the rate of climate change, it also increases the acidity of seawater (ocean acidification), endangering marine organisms and ocean health. Long-term monitoring and scientific analysis of how much carbon the ocean absorbs from the atmosphere is critical for understanding the role the ocean plays in controlling the climate, determining if ocean uptake of CO2 will continue or slow with more emissions, and how we can prepare for potential future climate-related challenges.

NOAA’s Global Ocean Carbon Network provides long-term observations of carbon from the sea surface to the sea floor. These measurements are recorded across the globe to capture differences between ocean basins at different time scales to capture both seasonal and year-to-year variability. This observing network helps address the key socioeconomic and scientific questions relating to the impacts of the changing global carbon cycle on society and the environment.

replace with CO2 schematic

Surface Ocean Carbon

Understanding changes in oceanic CO2 uptake is essential for assessing the difference  between human-caused climate change and the global carbon cycle. The Surface Ocean CO2 Reference Network (SOCONET)  provides information on how the global carbon cycle changes over time. This network utilizes commercial vessels (Ships of Opportunity), research vessels, and autonomous platforms to measure temperature, salinity, and pCO2 (partial pressure of carbon dioxide) in surface water and the air. These observations are used to determine the amount of atmospheric CO2 absorbed by the ocean on seasonal scales, document changes in the surface ocean carbon chemistry, and evaluate the variability in carbon exchange between the ocean and atmosphere to provide meaningful projections of future atmospheric CO2 levels.

Arctic wave glider measuring carbon air-sea exchange.
Image Credit: Evans PMEL Climate Research
NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
Image Credit: NOAA PSL
Ocean Interior Carbon

Ship-based ocean sampling remains the only method for obtaining high-quality physical, chemical, and biological measurements over the full water column (surface to bottom) on a global scale. The U.S. Global Ocean Ship-based Hydrographic Investigation Program (GO-SHIP), part of the international GO-SHIP network of sustained hydrographic sections, collects ocean interior carbon measurements to determine changes in the storage of human-caused CO2 , including at depths greater than two kilometers, which is below what autonomous core Argo floats can measure.

How We Measure

Measuring platforms here….

GOMO is leading the coordination and integration of global ocean carbon observations across research and modeling activities

GOMO facilitates partnerships across NOAA programs and with academic, international, non-governmental, private-sector organizations and other federal agencies to measure ocean carbon.

Ocean Carbon Network News

We support innovative research from institutions from around the country that foster advancements in understanding and protecting our global oceans. See how you can get involved by viewing our current funding opportunities.