Close to 600 scientists from 21 countries met Sept. 23-25 in Bremen, Germany, to outline major scientific targets for a new, ambitious ocean drilling research program. The scientific community envisions that this program will succeed the current Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), which ends in 2013. The outcome of the Bremen meeting will result in a new science plan, enabling scientific ocean drilling to further environmental understanding.
"This is a truly historic meeting," said the
IODP vice-president Hans Christian Larsen. "Never before have so many
scientists from the ocean drilling community met in one place. We were
especially pleased to see so many young scientists – these researchers
represent the next generation who will lead the new ocean drilling program,
which is expected to start in 2013."
scientists attending the meeting discussed both established and new research
fields. Potential predictability of geohazards, such as volcanic eruptions,
earthquakes and tsunamis, also were addressed, in part linked to development of
sub-seafloor laboratories more than 3 miles deep into the seabed.
drilling already has revealed discoveries such as confirmation of microbial
life up to 5,249 feet below the seafloor, in rocks as old as 111 million years.
Scientists now have started to explore this “deep biosphere,” but many critical
questions remain unanswered.
plenary talk, Alan Mix of Oregon State University pointed out that the current
level of CO2 injection into Earth's atmosphere soon will bring the CO2
concentration to a level not seen for many million of years, and on par with
that of severe greenhouse conditions of the geological past. Only ocean
drilling can provide records of the environment that ruled during these warm
episodes during Earth's history, and investigate the true sensitivity of the
climate to changes in CO2 concentration.
Ocean research drilling started more than four decades
ago. Since then, about 200 expeditions have been completed and more than 217
miles of core have been recovered, documenting a much more dynamic Earth and
climate than was previously thought to exist. In recent years, IODP, using
multiple drilling platforms, has drilled in extremely challenging environments,
such as shallow water carbonate reef systems very sensitive to sea-level
change, and in the high Arctic, the last frontier area of ocean exploration on
the Earth. Today, even deep drilling, up to 6 miles beneath the drillship, is
The Future of Scientific Ocean Drilling
October 7, 2009