"reef3803" by Twilight Zone Expedition Team 2007, NOAA-OE / CC BY 2.0

Enter the twilight zone: scientists dive into the oceans’ mysterious middle

Feb 28, 2020

By Jeff Tollefson

It is home to a majority of the marine fish biomass and helps to remove an estimated 4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. Now, scientists are gearing up to dive into the twilight zone, the largely unexplored ocean layer 200 to 1,000 metres deep that some worry is threatened by a changing climate and increased pressure from fishing.

As part of a US$25-million mission, NASA will travel to the north Atlantic in April to study the movement of carbon between the atmosphere and the deep ocean. Others will join in the expedition thanks to a collaborative venture unveiled at the American Geophysical Union’s ocean-science meeting in San Diego, California, last week.

“This is literally the biggest investment ever made in the twilight zone,” says Dave Siegel, an oceanographer at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is heading the NASA mission, dubbed Export Processes in the Ocean from Remote Sensing, or EXPORTS. The addition of a network of collaborators promises to bolster data-sharing and coordination with other research efforts around the world. “If we can federate, we can help each other.”

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