New uses for worldwide submarine cable system?


In December, Dr. Chris Barnes (SEOS, emeritus) was appointed chair of a new Joint Task Force (JTF) established by three United Nations agencies that is investigating the potential of using submarine telecommunications cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning.

Under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the JTF is composed of over 60 experts from science, engineering, business and law.

The task force is developing a strategy for using modified submarine repeaters equipped with scientific sensors (such as temperature, pressure and acceleration) for climate monitoring and disaster risk reduction (particularly tsunamis). Repeaters are deployed along submarine telecommunications cables about every 50–70 km to amplify the pulsed optical signal. The JTF will also analyze the potential renovation and relocation of retired out-of-service cables for these purposes.

If the initiative is successful and receives support from industry and regulatory bodies, a wide network of mini-observatories could be established across the world’s ocean floors to measure these important parameters accurately over several decades.

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Keywords: climate change, oceans

People: Chris Barnes

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