Ocean and Coasts Overview
Earth’s a world of water, with seven tenths of its surface covered by ocean. The oceans are the engine of our climate system, taking in approximately half of all solar energy around the equator to power mighty currents that extend up as far as the poles, wind fields following in their wake.
Their waters also provide us with much of the air we breathe: microscopic phytoplankton populations performing half of all photosynthesis, despite forming less than 1% of global biomass. In addition, the oceans absorb much of the additional CO2 produced by human activity – preventing global warming from worsening.
Human beings don’t like to venture too far from the sea: 60% of us live less than 60 km from the world’s three million square kilometres of coast, which represent major economic resources, and more than two thirds of all cities with populations of more than 2.5 million people are within coastal zones.
The surface of the sea is ever-changing but satellites provide us with a means of mapping it for the very first time.
Envisat’s ASAR can survey ocean wave spectra to increase the safety and efficiency of marine transport – 90% of world trade crosses the oceans – while ERS’s scatter meter compiled maps of sea surface wind patterns. Envisat’s MERIS and other spectrometers can identify phytoplankton or pollution levels from the slightest shift in water colour, while AATSR provides a steady record of sea surface temperature and two decades worth of radar altimetry data tracks a slight but steady increase in sea level of 3 mm per year.
Oceans and Coasts News
05 July 2017
All eyes are on Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf as a deep crack continues to cut across the ice, leaving a huge chunk clinging on.
08 June 2017
Last year, the Sentinel-2A satellite captured an intense algal bloom very close to the Belgian coast. The high-resolution capabilities of Sentinel-2's main instrument are allowing scientists to monitor algae blooms in areas previously not possible to observe with satellites.
Specific Topics on Oceans and Coasts
Our coastlines are in continual change due to erosion, sea-level change and human impact. The monitoring of such change is the main focus of this application as an input to the management of our coastal areas.
The monitoring of the seasonal and spatial variability of fishing grounds and support to the implementation of the international regulations (eg. vessel monitoring) are the key elements of this application.
The study of ocean colour/biology is primarily utilized by the fishing industry to monitor algal blooms and phytoplankton distribution, both key elements of the oceanic food chain.
The operational modelling of ocean currents is used both by shipping and fisheries, as well as oil producers who install large platforms in this environment. The mapping of ocean floor topography is also an important input to the latter.
The measurement of ocean surface movement is used in the operational planning of ship routes and in the design of marine structures such as oil rigs. While the study of internal ocean waves is being improved as input to such applications.
Related Data Types
Related (Key) Documentation
Related Research Results