NASA backs SMAST-led effort to discover coastal waters' effect on CO2

NASA backs SMAST-led effort to discover coastal waters' effect on CO2

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST) has received $134,000 from NASA to lead a new research project to discover how coastal waters store and remove carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Rising levels of CO2 have raised concerns about ocean acidification and its effects on marine life.

The proposed research will employ a combination of models and observations from ships and satellites to examine linkages between land and ocean and how these interactions affect the ocean's ability to take up CO2 from the atmosphere.

The project was one of 62 proposals considered by NASA as part of its Carbon Monitoring System Science Team, which includes members from across the country.

SMAST Dean Dr. Steven E. Lohrenz will personally lead the research team, which includes partners from universities in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina.

"The oceans absorb about one third of all the fossil fuel CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, but the contribution of coastal waters to this is still very uncertain. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere influences climate and can alter the chemistry of the oceans in ways that may negatively impact marine organisms, but we simply don't know enough about how CO2 is being absorbed by the oceans and particularly by coastal waters," said Dr. Lohrenz. "This project is about gathering the scientific data that will help us to fill that gap in our understanding."

SMAST is a leader in this kind of research. SMAST researcher Dr. Jefferson Turner's 25-year study of coastal waters in southeastern Massachusetts has shown the temperature of Buzzards Bay rising by an average of five degrees -- an extraordinarily rapid change with strong potential effects on ocean acidification and CO2 retention.

The project's official name is "Development of Observational Products and Coupled Models of Land-Ocean-Atmospheric Fluxes in the Mississippi River Watershed and Gulf of Mexico in Support of Carbon Monitoring."

Regionally, it will focus primarily on the Mississippi River watershed and northern Gulf of Mexico, as well the southeastern US coast.

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