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Rare ocean climate data transmitted live from Seaexplorer – YC de Monaco during Vendée Globe Race

by Team Malizia 8 Jan 2021 12:54 GMT 8 January 2021
Boris Herrmann, Seaexplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco - Vendée Globe Race © Boris Herrmann

German skipper, Boris Herrmann has been racing his yacht Seaexplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco solo for over 60 days around the world, through the remote Southern Ocean, in the Vendée Globe ocean race.

At the same time as competing in one of the toughest ocean races in the world, Boris is also furthering the scientific community's knowledge on ocean climate change.

A race we must win

For the last three years the team has been gathering data via a SubCtech ocean laboratory installed onboard, similar to instruments used on the big research vessels.

The autonomous laboratory pumps seawater in and up through the keel and continuously measures three main parameters - ocean surface CO2, temperature and salinity. These parameters allow scientists to better understand the impacts of climate change on the ocean, and how the ocean is moderating climate change. Until now there has been almost no data from this remote region; now with the help of Boris and Seaexplorer, for the first time the scientific community has a picture of Southern Ocean health through a lap of the world.

An environmental challenge

Dr. Stefan Raimund, the team's partner scientific consultant, commented: "It is always exciting to see scientific data coming in from a race boat!"

"It is an incredible data set, especially the data from the remote South Atlantic - this is very valuable for us. This area is a blank spot on the map of CO2 observations and makes your input so important for the scientific community."

The team's partner scientists, Dr. Peter Landschützer from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and Dr. Toste Tanhua from Geomar, Kiel, are currently preparing the data received to date for submission to the SOCAT database. This database makes the data available worldwide to all scientists. Researchers can use this open access data in order to better understand the global carbon cycle or to feed complex computer models for climate change predictions.

Dr. Tanhua said: "The South Atlantic and the Southern Ocean are quite an unknown in terms of climate data, although a major driver of the global climate. That is what makes this type of data so valuable and very exciting for ocean climate scientists to analyse."

Dr. Landschützer added: "The data collected by Seaexplorer is already being used in the Global Carbon Budget 2020: This is one of the most influential carbon cycle science studies in the world and the fact that the team is contributing to it in this way is really impressive."

For Boris this scientific mission comes hand in hand with racing, so it was an easy decision to help the scientific community whilst racing in the remotest and most inhospitable areas of the world. The additional weight was never a concern as the team saw this as a much greater mission.

Boris commented: "The Vendée Globe is a race I would like to win but there is a much bigger race, the race we must win, the race against time to find solutions for climate change. This is something we are very concerned about with our partners. A special thanks to all our partners especially Yacht Club de Monaco, Kuehne+Nagel, MSC, CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd for uniting behind this common goal and working towards solutions. This is more than a race, this is also a scientific voyage with our scientific partners and IOC-UNESCO.

The importance of the oceans cannot be highlighted enough, without the oceans there would be no life on earth. As a main player in our climate system they store more than 90% of the excess heat from radiative forcing and they absorb about a quarter of the annually emitted manmade CO2. However, the increase in heat content and the CO2 induced acidification impacts the health of the ocean. This is why we pursue our ocean research mission to protect this incredible wilderness. I hope to inspire you all through this race to do more to protect our climate."

Shipping and Yachting sector united behind one goal

Furthermore, our two main partners, Kuehne+Nagel and The Yacht Club de Monaco both have CO2 measuring initiatives of their own. Kuehne+Nagel developed the digital seaexplorer platform which reports on and visualises the carbon emissions of various maritime transport services worldwide and enables customers to choose the service with the lowest CO2 emissions.

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco said the day before the start of the Vendée Globe: "I welcome Boris's initiative whose environmental action we support through the Yacht Club and my Foundation. Climate change is one of our biggest challenges. In line with the United Nations' sustainable development goals for 2030, the next ten years must focus on oceanography to underpin our scientific knowledge and promote the emergence of new solutions to hopefully reverse the cycle of decline in the health of our oceans."

The CO2 reduction objective has also mobilised key players in the luxury yacht sector at the instigation of the Yacht Club de Monaco which set up the Superyacht Eco Association (SEA) Index, a benchmark for measuring the environmental impact of 40+m yachts. SEA Index helps owners assess and improve their environmental performance with a view to reducing their carbon emissions.

Video of Boris on New Year's Day discussing our science mission and ocean health.

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