National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2024

PMEL Passive Acoustics Research: Quantifying the ocean soundscape from whales to wave energy

Dziak, R.P., H. Matsumoto, S.M. Haver, D.K. Mellinger, L. Roche, J. Haxel, S. Stalin, C. Meinig, K. Kohlman, A. Sremba, and J. Gedamke

Oceanography, 36(2–3), 196–205, doi: 10.5670/oceanog.2023.203, View open access article online at Oceanography (external link) (2023)

Passive acoustic monitoring of the global ocean has increased dramatically over the last decade, providing insights into seasonal sea ice and wind/wave variability, biodiversity, geophysical hazards, and anthropogenic noise impacts. All of these phenomena are sentinels of marine ecosystem health and ocean climate change. Recognizing the utility of underwater sound, the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) formed a passive acoustic research program with the goal of quantifying deep-ocean and coastal soundscapes in support of NOAA’s mission to conserve and manage marine ecosystems. PMEL Acoustics Program researchers have built a stable of novel ocean technologies, including autonomous stationary hydrophones, mobile platforms, and near-real-time surface buoys with satellite communication capability. These passive acoustic monitoring systems have been deployed in every major ocean basin on Earth, enabling significant advancements in understanding of natural and anthropogenic sounds. This progress includes evaluation of human-made sound levels across US waters, observations of ship noise fluctuations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and evaluation of noise levels from offshore wave-energy devices. Progress in natural sound research includes assessment of seasonal variability in the presence of endangered cetacean species due to population recovery and/or changing ocean temperatures as well as early detection of the collapse of an Antarctic ice shelf.

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