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Published: 08 Nov, 2019

The need for long time series

NEWS The UN has published a report about the major impact of climate change on the oceans. More than one hundred researchers have compiled the report, and close to 7000 scientific articles have been condensed to clear messages. The basis of the report is long term monitoring of different parameters in the oceans, and a careful management of data. Without these data there would be a severe lack of knowledge.

Text: Kristina Viklund

Measurements are continuously ongoing in the world oceans. The monitoring might seem expensive, and it requires both high competence and costly equipment and research vessels. However, without the long term data series we would have been unable to understand the need for powerful measures. We might even have been unaware of the negative development of our climate.

For many years, Umeå University has contributed to the national environmental monitoring, and thereby been a part in the building of knowledge concerning the environmental status of the sea. All year around monitoring is performed, commissioned by several different authorities.

Crucial long term data series

The time series that have been built up by the Swedish environmental monitoring is an important part of the overall information about the sea areas around us, and contribute to the understanding of climate change. The data is crucial for the overall status description given by the UN climate panel.

The long term time series of data make it possible to discover trends and to understand variation on different time scales. This contributes to a credible status evaluation. When it comes to evaluating effects of climate change it takes measurements during very long time periods to find trends.

- The long term time series are crucial for understanding the severity of the situation, says Johan Wikner, head of Umeå Marine Sciences Centre at Umeå University.

Important exchange

The environmental monitoring is closely coupled to research. High quality data are needed both when developing models for forecasting the future ocean status and when using the models.

- It is a two-way exchange. The time series of high quality data are a very important resource for research, and research findings are beneficial in the development of the future monitoring programmes, says Siv Huseby, environmental analyst at Umeå Marine Sciences Centre and responsible for the pelagic monitoring in the Gulf of Bothnia.

Basis for measure decisions

Within EcoChange, the Swedish government's strategic research initiative on marine environmental research, researchers are looking into how climate change will affect the Baltic Sea ecosystem. During the ten years that EcoChange has proceeded, the researchers have benefitted from the generated data time series, which are openly available.

- Without the long term time series we would just encapsulate a moment in time. It would be very difficult for us to forecast effects on the sea environment. Access to the long term time series enables us to put our results in the right context, and we can thereby give authorities guidance concerning for example costly measures, says Agneta Andersson, scientific coordinator of EcoChange.