Artash Nath, Grade 10 Student, Toronto, RISE 100 Fellow

It is wonderful to back at the AGU 2021 conference with my latest research. Last year I presented my research: “The Silence of Canadian Cities: The Seismology Impact of the Covid19 Lockdown” at the Social Seismology S004-01 session: The Effect of COVID-19 Lockdown Measures on Global Seismic Noise and it was an amazing experience.

This year, AGU 2021 is being held from 13 – 17 December 2021 at New Orleans, Los Angeles and virtually. Motivated by the fun and learnings from my previous research on impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on seismic vibrations in Canadian cities (see the webapp: http://www.MonitorMyLockdown.com which showcases my research) I decided to expand my research to global oceans and showcase the research plans and preliminary findings at the AGU 2021.

Check out my lightning talk on “Silence of Global Oceans? Underwater Acoustics Impact of the Covid-19 Lockdown” on 14 December 2021 (https://ooifb.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/OOIFB_TH_FallAGU2021_agenda.pdf) and again on 16 December 2021 (https://whoi-edu.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Gjpe3IkmQ_64KDZKkerRwA).

Watch the video of my presentation at:  https://youtu.be/chX4UEX-Izc?t=1328

Low-frequency sound from maritime shipping is a major source of ambient underwater noise in global oceans and a threat to marine life. Increase in global trade, 80% of which by volume, occurs through ocean tankers and container ships, means that underwater noise levels are increasing. As seasonal ice disappears because of climate change and new year-round shipping routes open, ambient and peak intensity sound levels in oceans are bound to increase.

Anthropogenic noise is an acoustic pollutant. In the darkness of the oceans, marine life has evolved to use acoustic cues to find food, reproduce, navigate, and avoid predators. Baleen whales, for instance, use low frequencies (10Hz – 10kHz) for long-range communication. Unfortunately, low-frequency sounds (20Hz – 200Hz) radiated by propellers, thrusters, and machinery of over 50,000 commercial vessels traversing the oceans at any given time overlaps with the frequency band used by marine life such as fish, whales, and porpoises.

Preliminary findings from my ongoing research on analyslng anthropogenic ambient noises in global oceans

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 brought an unexpected ‘anthropause.’ Border closures, travel restrictions, and economic slowdown meant a temporary hiatus in commercial shipping, offshore energy exploration activities, and ocean tourism. The disruptions in marine traffic actually led scientists to dub 2020 the ‘Year of the Quiet Ocean.’

Video of my presentation at AGU 2021 on the Silence of Global Oceans? Underwater Acoustics Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

It provides a rare research opportunity to investigate the time-series relationship between anthropogenic activities and ambient noise levels in oceans. I decided to undertake this research to – measure the impact of COVID-19 related restrictions on underwater ambient noise levels in global oceans, The outcomes of the research would improve our understanding of global oceans and come up with ways to mitigate the adverse impacts of economic exploitation of oceans and climate change on marine biodiversity.

About AGU: AGU is the leading forum for advancing Earth and space science and its fall meeting brings together 25000 attendees from over100 countries.

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