North Atlantic Carbon Observatory
Enabling responsible ocean-based climate solutions and decisions

The North Atlantic Carbon Observatory (NACO) will provide the ocean information required to support urgent international climate strategies and climate mitigation solutions.

NACO will bring together nations and networks to inspire scientific innovations, pool resources and amplify global expertise of this critical ocean system.

Once underway, NACO’s observations, data synthesis abilities and ocean climate modeling will play a critical role in the development of sustainable ocean policy and provide the required baseline observations to enable safe, effective and verified ocean-based carbon dioxide removal.


The ocean is the largest and most important carbon storage depot on Earth, yet it remains critically under-observed and under measured.

This gap threatens our ability to forecast and respond to climate change accurately and effectively, limiting our ability to set correct climate policy, support human adaptation strategies, and advance climate mitigation solutions.

The proposed North Atlantic Carbon Observatory (NACO) would connect and enhance ocean observation and modelling efforts to allow for more accurate measurements of the ocean’s ability to absorb and store carbon. Observations would be merged into a data factory that allows advanced ocean carbon and climate synthesis and modeling to inform stakeholders.

Diagram showing how NACO would connect and enhance ocean observation

Why the North Atlantic

Although there are existing ocean observation initiatives in the North Atlantic, an integrated and coordinated international observing system does not exist today.

North Atlantic with overlay of gGmbH moles per square meter
From: World Ocean Review 1, maribus gGmbH (after Sabine et all, 2004), Hamburg 2010
  • The North Atlantic Ocean has absorbed 30 per cent of anthropogenic ocean carbon in the industrial era.
  • The North Atlantic is particularly vulnerable to climate change – it is downstream from the melting Arctic and Greenland ice caps, and extremely sensitive to the strength and location of the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.
  • NACO will link existing observations, supplement existing programs with critical biogeochemical sensors and identify and fill strategic gaps of missing observations to better understand the ocean carbon cycle in the changing North Atlantic.

Environmental urgency

Climate solutions are largely focused on the uptake of carbon on land, and the blue carbon stored within our coastal waters. But more than 90 per cent of carbon is stored in the deep ocean, beyond national jurisdictions, known as deep blue carbon, and safe and responsible ocean-based carbon dioxide removal (CDR) strategies represent a substantial opportunity to achieve the net zero requirement.

Carbon reservoir by size where the ocean is the largest reservoir totaling 88%

There is an urgent need for well-designed, sustained observations to understand the underlying mechanisms behind the ocean’s ability to continue to sequester carbon.

  • According to the latest Global Risks Report 2023 released by the World Economic Forum, failure to mitigate climate change remains the top global risk faced over the next decade.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recognized the importance of quantifying the variability of the ocean carbon sink and that carbon removal will be a requirement to achieve the Paris Agreement to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Economic benefits

Investment in NACO facilitates more accurate climate forecasts that can significantly help reduce future costs and avoid losses from climate change. In addition, better understanding of current and predictive carbon cycles from NACO can provide the baseline data needed to advance ocean-based CDR markets and spur economic growth in this novel and nascent industry.

  • The US experienced a $1B climate disaster every 20 days in 2022. Governments and insurance providers have an urgent need to more accurately predict climate changes and climate-related losses to reduce losses and budget for funds to be available to support rebuilding and claim payments.
  • At the future forecast price of $100/tonne of CO2, safe and responsible deep blue carbon sequestration credits have the potential to create anywhere from hundreds of billions to a trillion dollars in value each year.

A starting point for the world

An observing network in the North Atlantic would serve as a starting point for global ocean observation.

  • This observation exemplar could and should be scaled internationally to cover as much of the global ocean as possible.
  • The Ocean Frontier Institute (OFI) has the capacity to develop and launch an internationally connected North Atlantic project, which would provide global researchers and policy makers with a clear dashboard on the health of the ocean carbon cycle.