Why Marine Heat Waves and why CAREHeat?

As the global ocean temperatures continue to rise, Marine Heat Waves (MHW) are becoming more widespread, threatening marine ecosystems and their services for food-provision, livelihoods, and recreation. Predicting the occurrence, intensity, and duration of MHW, and understanding their impacts on marine ecosystems is essential for ocean management and a key step towards developing science-based solutions for sustainable development. Yet, current understanding of MHW drivers and their impacts on marine ecosystems and society are not well known.

To advance MHW detection and understanding, the European Space Agency (ESA), in the framework of the Earth Observation Science for Society (EO4society) programme, has launched the Ocean Health cluster. Through this initiative, the CAREHeat (deteCtion and threAts of maRinE Heat waves) project has been funded and started in March 2022. The CAREHeat consortium is led by the Institute of Marine Sciences of the Italian National Research Council (CNR-ISMAR) and includes the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA) from Italy, the +ATLANTIC CoLAB from Portugal, Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS), the Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) and Mercator Ocean International (Moi) from France.

CAREHeat is going to develop novel strategies to identify MHW, assess their status and trends, and determine their impact on marine ecosystems. This will be achieved following a multidisciplinary approach capitalising on the large potential offered by satellite Earth observations, complemented with large-scale autonomous (Biogeochemical-Argo) field measurements, physical and biogeochemical ocean reanalyses, biogeochemical modelling, and emerging machine learning technologies.

In terms of its main objectives, the project aims to:

—  Develop, validate and cross-compare novel EO MHW detection methods

—  Produce a 2D global MHW Atlas including usual and new MHW metrics (ex: start/end time; intensity, heterogeneity, abruptness, and recurrence), and provide a 4D MHW reconstruction Experimental Dataset for target areas (Tropical Pacific, North Atlantic subtropics, NW Mediterranean Sea)

—  Advance the understanding and prediction of MHW, and assess the single and combined effect of MHW and other anthropogenic stressors (acidification, eutrophication, deoxygenation) on marine biodiversity and biogeochemistry

—  Assess the usefulness of MHW indices relevant for marine ecosystems’ stakeholders (fisheries, aquaculture, and marine protected areas), contributing towards science-based solutions in support of decision-makers and marine ecosystem management strategies

CAREHeat results shall also feed into the overarching objectives of the ESA-EC Flagship Action on Ocean Health towards the implementation of the next generation of ‘’fit for purpose’’ ocean geoinformation and observation systems. CAREHeat results shall provide a steppingstone to enhance surveillance capacity regarding extreme meteo-oceanographic events. Overall, these are integral to achieve a consistent understanding of Earth Systems science, as well as its integration in the development of the foreseen Destination Earth (DestinE).

Stay tuned to our website and Twitter for new possible answers to the title of this news article.