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Earth Observation for Ocean-Atmosphere Interactions Science 2014

Date: August 21, 2014

Physical and biochemical interactions between oceans and atmosphere involve several key processes governing the Earth system dynamics and its climate. Momentum, heat/freshwater fluxes, aerosol and gas exchanges between the ocean surface and the atmosphere boundary layer influence key components of the Earth system such as the ocean circulation, the Earth radiation budget, the global carbon cycle or biodiversity, among others.

In this context, the observation, quantification and monitoring of the different ocean and atmospheric variables involved in these key processes is of major importance to better understand, characterise and predict their behaviour and their influence in climate and human activities. 

The Surface Ocean Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS) is a major international initiative to "achieve quantitative understanding of the key biogeochemical-physical interactions and feedbacks between the ocean and the atmosphere, and how this coupled system affects and is affected by climate and environmental change." Achieving this challenging objective not only calls for interdisciplinary research (involving biogeochemistry, physics, mathematical modelling, etc.), but also requires marine and atmospheric scientists to work closely together with Earth Observation scientists and modellers.

SOLAS is approaching its 10th year anniversary. In order to define the next SOLAS scientific challenges for the future, the SOLAS community have begun an effort to define research themes of major relevance for the next decade. These themes will become part of a Science Plan for the next phase of SOLAS. To this end, the SOLAS Scientific Steering Committee has identified 8 research themes: 

  1. Greenhouse gases and the oceans;
  2. The air-sea interface and fluxes of mass, energy;
  3. Atmospheric nutrient and particles supply to the surface ocean;
  4. Interconnections between aerosols, clouds and ecosystems;
  5. Ocean emissions and tropospheric oxidizing capacity;
  6. Interconnections between ocean biogeochemistry and stratospheric chemistry;
  7. Multiple stressors and ocean ecosystems;
  8. High Sensitivity Systems.

Recent advances in Earth observation (EO) technology allowed improved global observations of several key parameters governing the ocean-atmosphere interactions. In the coming years, an increasing number of EO missions will provide an unprecedented capacity to observe the sea-surface and the atmosphere, opening a new era in EO for ocean-atmosphere interactions science. The full exploitation of this capacity by scientific and institutional users, in particular to better understand the role of ocean-atmosphere interactions in climate change, requires coordinated research efforts to develop robust global geo-information products and to facilitate their integration into suitable coupled biochemical/physical models describing and predicting ocean-atmosphere processes. In this context, the exploitation of data from existing and planned satellite missions and the identification of "missing" remote sensing observations from space, will be instrumental to further the SOLAS science objectives.

The purpose of this second topical conference organised jointly by ESA, SOLAS and EGU is:

  • to advance the knowledge on the use of EO technology to support ocean-atmosphere interactions science with a main focus on the 8 science themes identified by SOLAS for the next decade;
  • to accelerate the development of robust global geo-information data products to better characterise and model the sea-surface, the atmosphere and the biochemical and physical processes governing their interactions; and
  • to consolidate a scientific roadmap to advance in the development and exploitation of novel and robust observations in support to the international scientific efforts of the SOLAS community, in line with the new SOLAS scientific strategy.

In this context, this conference aims at bringing together the EO, SOLAS and EGU communities, as well as scientific institutions and space agencies involved in the observation, characterisation and forecasting of ocean-atmosphere interactions and their impacts. In particular, the event represents a unique opportunity to facilitate the communications and scientific exchanges among these different communities in order to enhance the coordination of specific scientific efforts and advocate for a common view of major scientific needs and priority areas for the future.