Saving the seas: how AI is helping to protect our oceans

Covering nearly 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, oceans are the life support system for our planet. They generate half of the oxygen we breathe, provide food and livelihoods for billions of people worldwide and regulate the Earth’s climate.

However, global warming is having a profound effect on our oceans – from sea rising levels to increased storms, these changes will have significant consequences for humanity.  For example, if sea levels continue to rise, the water will swamp major coastal cities like New York and Shanghai, displacing up to 187 million people by 2100.

Studying and forecasting the influence of climate change on oceans is what professor Ronan Fablet, and his team of researchers at IMT Atlantique in France, have been focusing for the past two years. They are developing data-driven and learning-based schemes for the modelling, analysis and reconstruction of ocean atmosphere dynamics, by using satellite remote sensing data. These improved models offer the potential to better understand the Earth’s climate, and the impact of climate change on oceans, from currents to CO2 concentrations.

IMT Atlantique was one of the winners of the AI for Earth EU Oceans award, an initiative for European research organizations focusing on ocean-related challenges. The grants equip these researchers with AI tools, and cloud computing resources to help develop their work. These are part of Microsoft’s broader AI for Earth program, a five-year $50 million commitment, which has awarded more than 236 grants in larger projects since its inception two years ago.