Why Does Scientific Ocean Drilling Matter to You

PDF Print Email

Why Does Scientific Ocean Drilling Matter To You?

Increasing population and use of resources and energy have made the global environment and climate change major challenges for the 21st century. Research on deep-sea drill cores reveals the story of profound past climate and environmental change that helps illuminate the nature, degree, driving forces, and consequences behind such changes. And therefore provides a context in which to monitor and understand the importance of ongoing changes as we see them unfold on annual to human time scale. Can the past history show how dramatic and rapid changes can be? Are there signs of imminent, major changes that can be observed? How well can we model past history of global change? Such knowledge is fundamental in order to predict how dramatic future change could be, and where it may take us in terms of changing climate zones, change of sea-level and the impact on marine and terrestrial life.

It also matters to society because many of Earth’s most dynamic processes such as violent earthquakes and volcanism takes place within the oceans. These events pose major, immediate hazards to a large number of people. Placing observatories in boreholes deep within the seabed can help us understand the cycle and frequency of earthquakes. From the drill cores scientists can glean information on the history and magnitude of seismic and volcanic events, and their impact on the environment.

Drill cores from deep within the crust below the oceans are also critical for understanding the overall dynamics and history of planet Earth. New ocean crust is constantly being formed as part of the plate tectonic cycle, and subsequently being pushed back in the Earth’s mantle along tectonic subduction zones overlain by the volcanic arcs thought to be the building place for the continental crust we live on and utilize for resources.

Ocean drilling also has discovered that microbial life extends kilometer-deep into the seabed and suggests the presence of a huge, largely unknown biomass that may offer opportunities ranging from scientific insights into the development and sustainability of life under extreme conditions to possible industrial applications of unknown genetic material.

Understanding the complex working of our planet, its interplay with life, and the potential changes to global climate and environment caused by human activity is simply no longer just an option to satisfy scientific curiosity: It has become a critical societal responsibility for sustainable development within the 21st century. This is why ocean drilling sciences matters to all of us.

The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program is a research program global in scope and participation, and the only of its kind.



IODP Photo Gallery

Core Barrel Exp.325
Core Barrel Exp.325
Greatship Maya
Greatship Maya
Ocean Hall  (Smithsonian Museum 2)
Ocean Hall (Smithsonian Museum 2)