Observation network to monitor East China Sea

08:44, April 06, 2011      

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A 40-million-yuan ($6.1 million) project is under way to set up a marine observatory network under the East China Sea within the next five years, according to a top marine geologist.

The project will improve the monitoring of changes in the sea and the recording of data concerning earthquakes and tsunami, said Wang Pinxian, a member of the Chinese Academy of Science and professor with the marine geology and geophysics department at Tongji University.

The project is based on current experience from an observatory site near Xiaoqushan Island in Zhejiang province, which is the first ocean observation site in China.

"Shanghai started in ocean observation quite early," said Wang, who is in charge of the project and also responsible for the planned establishment of the Shanghai Marine Science and Technology Center.

The entire project was planned in 2005 and the trial operation of Xiaoqushan observation site was launched in April 2009, Wang said.

Wang told China Daily that the Xiaoqushan site, which sits at the seabed about 15 meters under sea level, is only an experimental point for shallow sea observation with a monitoring cable 1.1 km long.

Based on that, the new observation network will be set up in the eastern part of the Zhoushan Islands region, with a monitoring cable as long as 20 km, he said.

As well, a network for deep-sea observation is being prepared in South China Sea regions, Wang said, and a set of self-developed equipment will be sent for a two-month trial to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, a California-based research institute famous for its ocean observation around the world.

"We'll put the equipment in sea water 1,000 meters below the surface," Wang said.

"Undersea observation is a new research field for marine science. It is directly related to ecological environment, sea-farming, fishing and environmental protection."

However, Wang denied that the observation network could forecast an earthquake seven seconds faster.

"All observations are used for data collection at this stage," he said. "We can provide energy and receive information from the cable."

Wang said that in the past they had to replace batteries and collect data from storage.

"It's much more convenient now," he said. "Lots of functions, such as testing chlorophyll content, will be added in the future."

Information on things such as the run of sea sediment, red tides and the absence of oxygen can be collected for the use of shipping and fishing industries, Wang said.

Shi Xiaoning, a lecturer with school of naval architecture, ocean and civil engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, told China Daily that the monitoring of sea traffic and dredging will benefit from such information.

"The observation network can also contribute to cargo-ship scheduling and remote monitoring of oil fields," she said.

Data on seawater salinity, temperature changes and undersea mineral resources can be directly transferred to the laboratory by using the observatory network, according to Xu Huiping, director of the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences at Tongji University.

More observatory sites equipped with high-definition webcams will be installed later to enable live broadcasts from under the sea, he said.

Source: China Daily
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