Monitoring Ocean Properties in a Scenario of Global Changes
Paulo Relvas is a researcher at the Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) as well as being part of the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and Water Column Observatory – EMSO-PT, a project within the National Roadmap of Research Infrastructures.
EMSO-PT is part of the European EMSOERIC consortium, an infrastructure with eight observatories located in European waters, distributed across three test sites spread from the Azores to the Black Sea and the Canaries to Ireland. One of the observatories is located southwest of Cape Saint Vincent, in Sagres, in what is known as the Iberian Margin Node.
A structure will be installed on the continental shelf that will allow for the continuous observation of various oceanographic parameters along the water column. The objective is to monitor the short- and long-term variability of ocean properties in a scenario of global changes in this sensitive location.
The CCMAR is responsible for installing a long-term mooring over the continental shelf, at a depth of about 200 metres, which will allow for different oceanographic parameters to be observed along the water column. “It is an autonomous structure composed of a cart, which “yo-yos” up and down a vertical cable due to the swell of the sea. The cart moves up and down the entire length of the cable every 30 minutes, sampling the temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and chlorophyll of the water,” explains the researcher. “It will be complemented by an acoustic current meter mounted on the ocean floor, which observes ocean currents along the water column,” he adds.
As Paulo Relvas explains, “This structure should constitute a permanent underwater observatory and the data will be transmitted to land in almost real time.”
The installation will be carried out in collaboration with the Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA), which will provide the necessary naval resources.
The effects of global warming are visible, and the ocean is the most significant agent in stabilising our climate. By retaining tremendous amounts of energy without considerable temperature variations, it stops this energy, which accumulates on the planet’s surface due to the greenhouse effect, from causing more abrupt changes in the Earth’s climate. Knowledge of changes in the structure and functioning of the ocean as a consequence of climate change is therefore enormously important in coastal regions.
This will be the first permanent water column observatory used for continuous monitoring on the Portuguese continental shelf. It will enable us to start building a long-time series of the vertical structure of the ocean, which will allow us to evaluate how the coastal ocean reacts to both local and remote climate change and anthropogenic actions.
This structure being installed in the Cape Saint Vincent region allows for one of the most sensitive areas of the ocean coastal area to be monitored, where the development of oceanographic structures has a significant impact on the functioning of the ecosystem. This region also has the highest concentration of maritime traffic in Portugal, in particular oil tankers.
The actions to be taken as part of this project are in line with Goals 13, “Climate Action”, and 14, “Life Below Water”, as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations.
Paulo Relvas has a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics, a PhD in Physical Oceanography and is a researcher at the Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) of the University of Algarve.