Global Warming and the Ocean – UofSC News & Events
The debate is closed. Ninety-seven percent of climatologists agree that rising temperatures on Earth and related phenomena – more frequent and severe droughts, floods and fires – are the result of human-induced climate change. But humans can also be part of the solution, and there is a veritable army of researchers working to better understand, mitigate or adapt to the effects of climate change.
Two scientists who earned their PhDs in South Carolina are collecting data on marine issues related to global warming and the resulting increase in ocean salinity and temperature, which is negatively affecting coral reefs and could worsen other aspects of marine ecosystems.
Michelle Girach of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory is using airborne and satellite sensors to get a better perspective on the health of coral reefs, while Ebenezer Nyadjro of NOOA’s Northern Gulf Institute explores the many side effects of increasing ocean salinity.
Use: Scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Diploma: PhD, marine sciences, 2009
To concentrate: Using Satellite and Airborne Sensors to Collect Biophysical Ocean Data
why is it important: New remote sensing technology allows scientists to gather sophisticated data sets that provide a holistic understanding of the health of aquatic ecosystems such as coral reefs.
Michelle Gierach’s research axis is underwater but its perspective is high in the sky. At least that’s where she deploys the airborne imaging spectrometers she uses to gather information about the health of Pacific coral reefs, from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to the main Hawaiian Islands.
“Most coral reef assessments rely on divers who can only cover a small area, which translates to about less than 0.1% of the world’s reefs mapped,” she says. As NASA’s CORal Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL) mission project scientist, Gierach’s team multiplied that figure by 20. The data they collected both confirms and disproves popular beliefs about the Coral reefs. Some are bleached and degraded by environmental forces, such as rising temperatures, she says, but other reefs are very much alive and thriving.
“These airborne images are only a fraction of what we will get from space when space-based imaging spectrometers are launched in the next few years.”
Gierach on the future“Coral reefs throughout history have had their ups and downs. Will there be a version of them in the future? Probably, but will they be as species-rich as they are now? This is the real threat. Their survival ultimately affects everyone.