This chapter provides an assessment of future climate change research and development (R&D) needs related to U.S. naval operations. Such needs are for supporting naval tactical operations and for providing improved data for future U.S. naval planning. The committee’s examination of topics for future R&D emphasis focuses on those areas in which the naval forces have particular interests that might not likely be met in the near term by other groups pursuing climate-related research. It is specifically recommended that the Navy address R&D issues related to climate observations, climate modeling, and sea-level rise, as well as needs unique to the Arctic. Other important climate research questions have implications for U.S. naval forces, but it is expected that many of these will be pursued in the course of ongoing and/or planned U.S. and international scientific programs. For example, there is a set of important questions related to the consequences of a decrease in ocean pH resulting from the increasing ocean absorption of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is an area of basic research that the general scientific community is vigorously pursuing. Some aspects of ocean acidification that might be of special importance to the Navy—such as the potential effects of a pH decrease on sound absorption—are still under debate.2 The Navy should continue to monitor the research in ocean acidification closely, as the results may hold potential important implications for ocean acoustics critical to U.S. naval operations. The committee concluded that formulation of specific recommendations in this area would be premature.

Improved understanding of how climate is changing will surely point to new research areas of particular importance for U.S. naval forces. As a nation, we need to be prepared for surprises.


Naval operations demand environmental information in the form of observations, model-based analysis products, and model forecasts for navigation, communication, general fleet support, antisubmarine warfare (ASW), and search and rescue. The Navy has long had programs in place to collect ocean and marine meteorological data for these purposes. It also has well-established weather,


Oceanographers Tatiana Ilyina and Richard Zeebe of the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, together with Peter Brewer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, have hypothesized that seawater sound absorption will drop by up to 70 percent during this century. The scientists have examined the effects of human-made carbon dioxide under business-as-usual emissions and provide projections of the magnitude, timescale, and regional extent of changes in underwater acoustics resulting from ocean acidification. These changes are projected to be associated with the fact that low-frequency sound absorption depends on the concentration of dissolved chemicals such as boric acid, which in turn depends on seawater pH. These researchers also explained that further research is needed to address key questions in this area. See “Man Made Carbon Dioxide Affects Ocean Acoustics,” Science News, December 22, 2009.

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