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Royal Caribbean Group extends OceanScope climate-monitoring work

Adventure of the Seas, seen here at Nassau, is among the four Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships in the OceanScope monitoring program
Royal Caribbean Group extended its investment in OceanScope, an open-source data program that provides scientists critical information to study climate and ocean conservation.

The four-year extension was announced on World Oceans Day.

This continues a collaboration with key program partners including the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and builds on more than 20 years of ocean and marine life research from Royal Caribbean Group ships. 

Data from oceanographic/meteorological instruments on the ships

OceanScope leverages oceanographic and meteorological instruments on the ships to capture a continuous, simultaneous collection of vital signs such as the structure of currents, sea surface temperature, carbon dioxide concentrations and salinity. Taken along repeating ship routes, the data allow scientists to monitor changes over seasons, years and decades.

'At Royal Caribbean Group, every day is World Oceans Day, and we are thrilled to renew a program as impactful to oceanic research as OceanScope,' said Jason Liberty, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group.

OceanScope's open-source database is available to the scientific research community worldwide. The resulting data products and peer-reviewed research are key to informing ocean and conservation policy. 

Helped verify ocean acidification

Launched in 2002, the program helped verify for the first time that ocean acidification, a reduction in pH over an extended period caused primarily by carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, was occurring in the Caribbean Sea but at varying rates. Ocean acidification is detrimental to oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals and calcareous plankton. This is an ongoing concern for the entire food chain.

'We are most grateful to renew our successful collaboration with Royal Caribbean Group,” said Dr. Peter Ortner, research professor of marine biology and ecology at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science. 'This is an extraordinary example of how private industry, academic research institutions and government agencies are collaborating to amass an incredibly valuable dataset highlighting the intricate connection between the ocean, atmosphere, and climate.'

Four cruise ships and company-wide passenger education

As of 2023, data have been collected from more than 100,000 nautical miles sailed by four ships traveling across the Caribbean, in the Galápagos, the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Royal Caribbean International’s Allure of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Flora and Celebrity Equinox are currently providing data to scientists at NOAA, the Rosenstiel School and the community at large.

Royal Caribbean Group intends to share the program’s learning to its more than 8m passengers annually in an effort to increase ocean 'literacy.'

NASA and NOAA programs

'Looking at Earth’s ocean’s from space and leveraging in situ observations enabled by projects like OceanScope is what allows us to build robust knowledge of ocean’s role in climate, which controls our planet’s heat, energy and water,' said Dr. Nadya Vinogradova Shiffer, lead of NASA’s Climate Variability and Change Focus Area and program director of the NASA Ocean Physics program.

'Sustained and systematic operations with automated instruments on a variety of platforms, including this innovative collaboration, is a key to maintaining and strengthening the World Meteorological Organization’s and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission’s Global Ocean Observing System to which  NOAA is a major contributor,' added Rik Wanninkhof, a NOAA senior scientist and ocean carbon expert at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

In particular, he said the CO2, surface temperature and salinity data from Royal Caribbean Group’s ships are 'major contributors to these ocean observing networks to determine the ocean’s carbon sink strength and ocean acidification.'

SEA the Future

Beyond OceanScope, Royal Caribbean's SEA the Future platform is actively working to decarbonize the cruise operator's business through innovation, collaborative partnerships and a transition to cleaner fuels, smarter technologies and improved energy efficiencies.

The company has committed to reaching net-zero operations by 2050 and to a net-zero emissions cruise ship by 2035