Drawing on current examples from across the world, this moderated panel discussion brings together expertise in physics, marine engineering and a young scientist to discuss the physics of the oceans, its synergetic link to climate change and how physics can help to restore the health of our oceans.
99% of the world’s habitable space is in the ocean, yet more is known about the surface of the moon than the ocean floor. Oceans play a crucial role in regulating global climate and weather patterns, acting in many ways as Earth’s life support system. The oceans are the world’s largest carbon sink, storing 13 times more CO2 than the land and atmosphere combined, and producing more oxygen than all of the world’s rainforests. However, the balance of these complex feedback systems between oceans, the atmosphere and the biosphere is threatened by climate change, endangering marine biodiversity and ecological stability worldwide.
What insights and answers can physics provide for further exploring, understanding, and ultimately solving these global environmental challenges?
Fundamental physical processes underpin not only how the oceans behave but how they are linked to the carbon-climate system. Distribution of thermal energy, salinity and water mass, and the rotation of our planet, all affect currents, energy budgets, ocean mixing, waves and tides. Optical techniques can be used to measure the ocean temperature, the health of phytoplankton (which is estimated to produce between 50 – 80 percent of the Earth’s atmospheric oxygen) as well as the distribution of pollutants such as garbage and oil spills. Through these developing technologies, scientists are gaining understanding of key spatial and temporal processes; critical for our understanding of the Earth system and the challenges we all face.
In the Partner Breakfast panel hosted by Mars, Incorporated, leading optical physicist and Nobel Laureate Professor Donna Strickland will be joined by marine biologist, explorer and lecturer Dr. Sylvia Earle, along with a Lindau young scientist to discuss the physics of the oceans, in the context of the global climate crises we are facing. Having won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics for her work with high-intensity lasers, Prof. Strickland is an expert in the study of properties of electromagnetic radiation and its interaction with matter; processes fundamental to imaging and sensing technologies. Prof. Strickland is supporting the Optical Society’s (OSA) initiative to promote photonics as a means for measuring the effects of climate change to help us meet our commitments under the Paris Agreement. Dr. Earle is a climate activist, specialist in robotics and marine engineering and National Geographic Explorer in Residence. Having founded three organisations for protecting the world’s oceans, Dr. Earle was the first woman to be named Chief Scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and has led the field in robotic subsea systems for decades.
07:00 – 07:30 Breakfast
07:30 – 08:40 Panel and Q&A Discussion
- Levke Caesar, Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research, Germany
- Sylvia Earle, Marine Biologist, Explorer, Author, and Lecturer, USA*
- Donna Strickland, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Waterloo, Canada**
- Meeri Kim, science journalist, USA
*Dr. Sylvia Earle is an esteemed oceanographer, explorer, author and lecturer. Formerly Chief Scientist of NOAA, Dr. Earle is the founder of three ocean organisations – Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, Mission Blue and SEAlliance – and currently holds positions as National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence and Chair of the Advisory Councils of the Harte Research Institute and the Ocean in Google Earth. Throughout her career, Dr. Earle has steered the field of deep sea exploration, having led more than 100 underwater expeditions, and held numerous high-profile positions, including as a government official, and director for several corporate and non-profit organizations. Dr. Earle has received numerous national and international honours, including the 2011 Royal Geographical Society Gold Medal and the 2009 TED Prize.
**Professor Donna Strickland is a Nobel Prize winning optical physicist and pioneer in the field of pulsed lasers. Together with Gérard Mourou, Prof. Strickland was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018 for the invention of chirped pulse amplification. Currently a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo, Prof. Strickland is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award and a Cottrell Scholar Award. Her work developing pulsed lasers has opened up a range of possibilities for manipulating matter and creating new applications for physics across a range of fields. Moreover, Prof. Strickland is actively involved with the International Photonics Advocacy, where she is exploring the potential of applying photonics and optical sensing to environmental monitoring. She is a fellow of the Optical Society (OSA) and SPIE, and was president of OSA in 2013.