ocean observing system. In addition, classified DoN and DOD measurement assets could make significant contributions to GOOS if more open access were provided. As one example, release of images of Arctic sea ice from 1999 to the present as part of the Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis (MEDEA) Program is providing unique and fundamentally new information on the loss of Arctic sea ice that is largely attributable to climate change.12 The early MEDEA Program resulted in increased U.S. Navy collaboration and cooperative experiments with non-U.S. Navy entities, and this could serve as a model for today’s efforts to expand maritime operational data and knowledge in the Arctic. In a related example, the use of U.S. Navy submarines in the interagency Science Ice Exercise (SCICEX) Program has provided unique three-dimensional under-ice oceanographic data, including very valuable upward looking sonar ice-draft measurements.

As the Navy considers the use of these measurements and the potential impact of climate change on its operations and capabilities, it is clear that evolutionary and transformational advances may be required to improve modeling and prediction of seasonal, decadal, and beyond (century-scale) climate change. At the same time, it is quite challenging to assess climate model value or success because simulations from even the most advanced modeling systems have considerable spread and uncertainty. Included in this uncertainty is the possibility of unexpected rapid changes, extreme events, or abrupt climate change associated with potential fast processes either not resolved or resulting from unaccounted-for interactions/feed-backs among different Earth system components. While progress has been made to improve climate models, there is no capability for coupled ocean-atmosphere-land-cryosphere modeling in the Navy, and there are no programs focused on seasonal-to-decadal timescale prediction to support strategic decisions related to operations, platforms, and facilities. Because of its presence on the global oceans, its long-term global ocean/ice observations and data collection, and its unique physical assets, the U.S. Navy can both benefit from and contribute strongly to a better understanding of the ocean component of climate science.

In an emerging area, one aspect of ocean acidification that might be of special importance to the Navy—the potential effects of a pH decrease on sound absorption—is still under study. The Navy should continue to monitor the research in ocean acidification closely, as the results may have potentially important implications for ocean acoustics critical to U.S. naval operations.

FINDING: Open access to previously classified Navy data and to other Department of Defense assets through the MEDEA Program has enabled advances in climate change research that have benefited the scientific community studying climate change. A clear example of this benefit is the analysis of submarine upward


National Research Council. 2009. Scientific Value of Arctic Sea Ice Imagery Derived Products, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

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