Exploring our Noisy Oceans
The world’s oceans are vast, remote, and physically harsh. These qualities mean it is challenging to measure ocean properties, biological activity, and the impacts of humans on oceans. But new technology designed to listen to the ocean offers a powerful tool for exploring this realm.
Dr. David Barclay, Canada Research Chair in Ocean Technology Systems, is designing and building platforms that can measure ambient noise while unattended in a range of unforgiving environments, from coastal waters to deep ocean trenches. Part of his research involves gaining a better understanding the statistics of ambient noise, since this knowledge is the key to improving how systems that “hear” ocean signals—such as the call of an endangered North Atlantic right whale or the signature of a distant submarine—are designed.
Careful study of sounds like these can reveal information about the mechanisms that generate them and the environments they travel through.
Wind, rainfall, snowfall, ice formation, and melt generate noise in the ocean, and tell us about our earth’s climate and weather. For example, measuring surf noise on a beach can reveal how sound travels in water-saturated sand, and the noise on a coral reef tells us about the collective health of its inhabitants.
The instrument platforms built by Barclay and his research team will be used to study the spatial distribution, directionality, and statistics of ocean noise. They will also enhance our understanding of noise as it relates to weather, climate, national defense, the protection of marine mammals, and ocean ecology.