Malizia Ocean Challenge – sailing meets science

Renn-Yacht „Malizia“ mit Skipper Boris Herrmann auf der Elbe. Racing Yacht „Malizia“ with Skipper Boris Herrmann on the Elbe river. Credit: Andreas Lindlahr / BHR

On beginning of August a special sensor will be installed on the sailing yacht “Malizia” measuring the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) around the globe within the next 4 years -  a project scientifically accompanied by Dr Peter Landschützer, scientist in the department „The Ocean in the Earth System“ at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI-M). Together with colleagues from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, the “Malizia campaign” is aimed to provide pCO2 during its approximately 70.000 nautical miles of offshore racing over the next 4 years which include transatlantic as well as round-the-world racing, most prominently the Vendée Globe 2020/2021. “These data will be made available to the scientific community, but they will also be a valuable asset for my own data-based research”, Peter Landschützer adds. He hopes for new insights regarding the exchange of CO2 between the ocean and the atmosphere and the processes driving the exchange.

“Measurements of the ocean CO2 content are essential to understand the ocean carbon cycle” says Peter Landschützer. Estimates based on data from shipboard measurements suggest that the global oceans absorb roughly 25% of the annually human emitted carbon dioxide (CO2) and thereby help to mitigate the effect of global warming. In the process of absorbing CO2, the ocean is getting acidified with significant effects for marine life. Due to the vastness of the ocean and the high cost of sampling, most ocean regions, despite their crucial roles in the Earth’s climate system, are still under-sampled.

The United Nations 21st conference of parties (COP21) in Paris has set out the goal reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 2°C, and the UN Sustainable Development goals calls for limiting the ocean acidification.  Both mandates call for increased knowledge on the ocean carbon cycle. There is a need for novel observing systems that overcome the limitations of the currently existing observing networks. One very promising way is to combine sail racing events with scientific data collection. This is what the Malizia campaign, initiated by Boris Herrmann, is set out to achieve. „The vast majority of the Earth is covered by oceans, but we still lack observations in essential regions such as the Southern Ocean”, Peter Landschützer adds. With the hightech racing yacht „Malizia“ it will be possible to receive data from far reaches.

Besides the scientific goals, the Malizia campaign further fosters outreach activities. Schools and students will be actively involved in the collection and the analysis of the data, together with Peter Landschützer, allowing them to gain experience in both the world of sailing as well as the world of science and to better understand how we can use novel methods to better monitor a changing climate and the health of the ocean ecosystem.

Source: Mission statement of the Malizia Ocean Challenge

Dr Peter Landschützer
Max Planck Institute for Meteorology
Phone: +49 (0) 40 41173 145
Email: peter.landschuetzer@we dont want