April 22nd is Earth Day, and here at NOAA we know a few things about Earth. This year, NOAA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of several conservation laws and is also preparing to support the new America the Beautiful initiative, which aims to conserve at least 30 percent of US land and water by 2030 obtain.
A better understanding of our changing ocean and atmosphere is key to taking action that makes a real impact. Every day, NOAA staff support and conduct research that helps inform policy and educate decision makers about the state of the Earth. This research looks at models that help improve weather and climate forecasts, data products such as maps showing global ocean carbon levels, and international reports such as the annual State of the Climate report.
Here are three ways our science helps inform environmental policy:
Scientists deployed this biogeochemical argo swimmer called Europa in 2021.
Detect changes from ocean observations and data
NOAA’s Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing (GOMO) program plays a critical role in NOAA’s ocean research, supporting over one million ocean observations daily. These observations and data come from a variety of tools and instruments such as argo floats, drift buoys, gliders, anchor buoys and research cruises. With more than two decades of data and a current fleet of about 4,000 robotic swimmers, the Argo program has provided a baseline for upper ocean temperature and salinity measurements – nearly four times as much ocean information as all other observational instruments combined. About 500 scientific papers are published each year using Argo data, if this research makes news, decision makers can take note. In a 2020 paper published in Nature Climate Change, NOAA scientist Gregory Johnson and his colleague found that over the past 52 years, ocean warming trends have dwarfed cooling trends. “Ocean warming is closely linked to increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, so global sea temperature trends are an important metric for measuring climate change,” Johnson said. More specifically, warming oceans are affecting marine ecosystems, fish populations, and the health of coral reefs — which may also impact the seafood and tourism industries. A better understanding of ocean trends like this can also help identify appropriate solutions.
Found during the 2006 Davidson Seamount: Exploring Ancient Coral Gardens expedition at 1,875 meters (6,150 ft) depth on the slopes of the Davidson Seamount, this unidentified anemone resembles a Venus flytrap. Image courtesy of NOAA/MBARI.
Ocean research informs ocean protection
For over 20 years, NOAA Ocean Exploration has collected critical data from the sea surface to the sea floor—information that has been used in making decisions to protect some of our nation’s most important marine ecosystems.
For example, expeditions supported by NOAA Ocean Exploration in the early 2000s showed that the Davidson Seamount, an underwater mountainous habitat off the coast of central California, was home to large coral forests, vast sponge beds, crabs, deep-sea fish, shrimp, basket stars, and a large Number of rare and unidentified species. This tremendous biodiversity highlighted the need to protect the seamount, and in 2008 the boundary of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary was expanded to protect this fascinating and important habitat.
Learn about the wonders NOAA Ocean Exploration is discovering in the deep sea—and how their work is being leveraged for conservation efforts.
Methane research contributes to landfill policy
A 2018 study by NOAA’s Air Resources Lab and partners examined methane emissions in the Washington, DC-Baltimore, MD area and found that landfills in Maryland emit more methane than previously thought. The study’s lead investigator, Xinrong Ren, shared the study’s findings with the Maryland Department of Environmental Protection, and Maryland began making policy changes related to the landfills. Learn more about NOAA ARL’s atmospheric research.
Looking for more ways NOAA research is helping answer big questions about our environment? Check out our Earth Day coverage of 2021, 2020 and 2019. And learn how NOAA is investing in our planet — and how you can get involved this Earth Day — from NOAA.gov.