As part of the UN Ocean Decade Conference Satellite Event, Monitoring the Ocean, on April 8th, 2024 in Barcelona co-hosted by GHRSST, a Behind the Scenes: Monitoring the Ocean exhibition was displayed for attendees to step behind the scenes into the world of scientists that monitor the ocean.

The exhibition showcased monitoring from ice drills, gliders, buoys, fishing vessels, and of course, satellites. You can see the full exhibition online here.

Below you can find out how satellites help us to monitor water quality, marine heatwaves, and storms with satellite images and stories from Ben Loveday and Hayley Evers-King!

Water Quality

Cyanobacteria blooms in the Baltic Sea observed by Copernicus Sentinel-3 Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI), 13.08.2022.

Human and ocean health are intimately intertwined. Satellites can monitor the colour of the ocean surface and from this we can derive essential information about ocean water quality and how it might affect both ocean and human health. Blooms of phytoplankton are essential to ocean life – providing food for nearly every other organism, from the smallest fish to largest whale, as well as humans who depend on seafood as a source of food and livelihood. However, large algal blooms, and those caused by specific species can also be a threat to ocean and human health. Deoxygenation can make vast swathes of the ocean inhabitable for marine animals, whilst toxic blooms can affect tourism, render shellfish inedible, and ultimately make us sick. Observing these blooms can help us reduce these impacts, by issuing warnings, changing how we manage nutrient inputs from land, or helping fishery and aquaculture industries change their business operations.

Contains modified EUMETSAT Copernicus Sentinel-3 OLCI data, 2024.

Ocean dynamics and marine heatwaves

Mediterranean sea surface temperature from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR), 02.08.2023.

Heatwaves happen at sea as well as on land! Observing sea surface temperature is vital for accurate prediction of weather, and for understanding the effects of climate change on our oceans. Data such as that shown in this image, show the complex dynamics of ocean temperature. This data can be used as input to models, or processed as part of data records suitable for understanding long term climate change and extreme events, such as marine heatwaves. Marine heatwaves are a severe and increasing threat to marine ecosystems, causing coral bleaching and shifts in location and timing of different species behaviour.

Contains modified EUMETSAT Copernicus Sentinel-3 SLSTR data, 2024.

Extreme weather, extreme waves!

Daily evolution of the path of Hurricane Lee (Purple circles), with corresponding significant wave heights observed by Copernicus Sentinel-3 and 6 altimeters on 13.09.2023 (coloured tracks), overlaid on an airmass RGB image derived from a Geostationary satellites ring on the same day.

Storms (especially those in the tropics, typically known as hurricanes, typhoons or cyclones), threaten life and livelihoods every year. High winds, storm surges, and extreme waves are just a few of the hazards these storms create. Measurements from satellite altimeters are one way to observe these hazards, providing input to forecasts and supporting emergency planning and response.

Contains modified EUMETSAT Copernicus Sentinel-3 SRAL, Sentinel-6, MSG, GOES and Himawari data, 2024. Storm track extracted from NOAA’s International Best Track Archive for Climate Stewardship (IBTrACS) data, accessed on 01.04.2024.