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ITU/WMO/UNESCO IOC Joint Task Force

Joint Task Force to investigate the use of submarine telecommunications cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO/IOC), and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established the Joint Task Force (JTF) in late 2012 after Workshops in Rome (2011) and Paris (2012). Chris Barnes and David Meldrum were selected as the first Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of JTF in December 2012.

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About the Joint Task Force

​The JTF is tasked with developing a strategy and roadmap that could lead to enabling the availability of submarine repeaters equipped with scientific sensors for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster risk reduction (tsunamis). It will also analyze the potential renovation and relocation of retired out-of-service cables in this realm. With the installation of new trans-ocean and regional telecommunication cable systems equipped with sensors, a global network could be established providing decadal real-time data for ocean climate monitoring and disaster mitigation (particularly from tsunamis).

An Executive Committee with 9 members has representation from the Science and Society, Engineering, Legal, Business Model, and Publicity, Outreach and Marketing committees. Executive teleconferences are held approximately monthly and the JTF Plenary teleconferences every 1-2 months. Presentations are made at relevant industry and science conferences; major workshops are arranged at least annually.

Members

The JTF is composed of nearly 100 experts from the science, engineering, business and law communities.
 
Chair: Chris Barnes, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria, Canada
 
Vice-Chair: David Meldrum, Research Fellow, Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) and JCOMM Observations Programme Area (UNESCO-IOC)
 
Executive Committee: download here.
 
Members: download here.
 
Secretariat: download here.

Terms of Reference

  1. Study and evaluate scientific, engineering, business, and societal benefits, opportunities, challenges and risks associated to the use of submarine telecommunications cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning, as well as legal aspects of such use;
  2.  
  3. Develop a strategy and roadmap that could lead to enabling the availability of submarine repeaters equipped with scientific sensors for climate monitoring and disaster risk reduction such as pressure, temperature, salinity/conductivity, seismic, hydroacoustic and cable voltage in the near future;
  4.  
  5. Analyze the development of projects that could include renovation and relocation of retired out-of-service cables for disaster warning, ocean and climate monitoring;
  6.  
  7. Cooperate closely with the International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC) to investigate and report on the technical feasibility of incorporating the required scientific sensors into the design, manufacture, installation and operation of submarine repeaters in a safe manner without affecting cable systems and telecommunication signals, and avoiding risks that could affect the normal operation of the cables;
  8.  
  9. Consider a business model of how sensor data from submarine cables could be provided and could be made available for scientific purposes and societal benefit;
  10.  
  11. Identify financing models and opportunities to promote the development of ocean climate monitoring and disaster warning systems by the use of submarine cables;
  12.  
  13. Consider ways to further promote the implementation of the legal regime, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other instruments, for the protection of submarine cables, including awareness building and mobilization of support at the national and global levels;
  14.  
  15. Organize similar workshops to report on the progress;
  16.  
  17. Ensure that the outcomes of the above efforts/activities take into account and are consistent with international law, as reflected in UNCLOS;
  18.  
  19. Invite ITU to consider providing secretariat support for the joint task force.
  
Dowload here the CALL TO ACTION

Publications

The scientific and societal case for the integration of environmental sensors into new submarine telecommunication cables

Our ocean and climate are experiencing global changes that will affect us and our descendants. Without access to the seafloor for fundamental oceanographic measurements, scientists cannot quantify and respond to the dilemma facing humanity. As we begin to make submarine telecommunication cables environmentally aware “green cables”, we look to a future where cables serve a dual purpose, both as communications infrastructure and a scientific backbone for monitoring tsunamis, earthquakes and the world’s seafloor temperatures and circulation.
This report (2014) was developed by the JTF Science and Society Committee under the leadership of Rhett Butler, University of Hawaii. 
Download here.

Using Submarine Cables for Climate Monitoring and Disaster Warning: Strategy and Roadmap
 
This report presents a strategy and roadmap to move forward this vision of incorporating sensors into submarine cables. Nowadays, submarine telecommunication cables that traverse oceans transmit the global Internet, but are deaf, dumb and blind to their ocean environment around them. A future is envisioned when telecommunication companies integrate ocean-observing sensors within their submarine cable systems. This new sensory data would crucially advance our knowledge in monitoring global climate change and tsunamis in the deep ocean. 
This report (2012) was written by Rhett Butler, University of Hawaii. 
Download here
 
Using Submarine Cables for Climate Monitoring and Disaster Warning: Opportunities and Legal Challenges
 
Recognizing the newness of such uses of undersea telecommunications cables and the complexity of national and international legal-regulatory regimes, this report examines opportunities and legal challenges arising from dual-purpose telecom-marine data cables for ocean and climate monitoring and disaster warning. 
This report (2012) was written by Kent Bressie, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP. 
Download here

Using Submarine Cables for Climate Monitoring and Disaster Warning: Engineering Feasibility Study 
 
This report investigates technical feasibility of modifying repeaters to support science instruments for incorporation into commercial telecom cables systems. Allowing and improving long term measurement and data collection, a “Green Repeater" equipped with science instruments will indeed contribute to the effort of better understanding the oceans and the changing climate. 
This report (2012) was written by Peter Phibbs and Stephen Lentz, Mallin Consultants Ltd. 
Download here  
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