A New Southern Ocean Observational Initiative Underway!

Thursday, Mar 6, 2014

As chief scientists on the icebreaker R/V Nathaniel B. Palmer, Lynne Talley (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) and Brendan Carter, co-chief scientist and AOS Associate Research Scholar, are playing a lead role in what hopes to be a major new observational initiative that will give the scientific community unprecedented year-round coverage of biogeochemistry in the Southern Ocean, the least observed and least understood region of the world’s oceans. 

On March 20th, Carter and Talley, along with 27 fellow scientists, embarked on a 45-day journey from Hobart, Tasmania to Papeete, Tahiti for the first deployment of bio-Argo floats far south of New Zealand. The ship is carrying the first set of fully-equipped Southern Ocean biogeochemical profiling floats, measuring oxygen, nitrate, fluorescence and backscatter, and -- the newest addition -- pH. The field campaign is part of the US Repeat Hydrography, P16S, 2014 under the auspices of GO-SHIP and sponsored by the US Climate Variability and Predictability Program (CLIVAR). 

The first float, launched on March 26th about 900 miles south of New Zealand, is one of 12 floats being deployed as part of the global Argo float array, profiling every 10 days to 2000 m depth. With the goal of observing the Southern Ocean’s important uptake of excess CO2 from the atmosphere and directly observing its acidification resulting from global change, scientists hope that these floats will be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to the growing Southern Ocean Observing System.  P16S Blogs