In 2014, the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project was launched with a vision to enable a transformative shift in scientific and public understanding of the role of the Southern Ocean in climate change and biogeochemistry. SOCCOM researchers have:

  • Deployed a network of 136 biogeochemical floats operating in all 3 basins of the Southern Ocean;
  • Developed a high-resolution biogeochemical Southern Ocean State Estimate (B-SOSE) that is assimilating float data;
  • Calculated float-based climatological seasonal cycles of carbon system variables and air/sea carbon fluxes across several zones of the Southern Ocean;
  • Carried out model simulations that suggest a new climate feedback mechanism from Antarctic meltwater
  • Led a Southern Ocean Model Intercomparison Project (SOMIP), simulations from which have already produced significant and unexpected results;
  • Published over 90 manuscripts on SOCCOM technology and early results, including 18 papers in a SOCCOM special issue of JGR-Oceans; and
  • Successfully transferred SOCCOM float and sensor technology to the commercial float industry.

In addition, a substantial education and outreach effort has contributed to the training and education of 15 postdocs, 14 graduate students, and 37 undergraduate students at five different institutions and engaged thousands of members of the public through online events, social media, and a school-based adopt-a-float program.

Year 5 Progress

As of June 2019, the project is more than halfway toward its goal of ~180 floats deployed in the Southern Ocean. SOCCOM floats have collected a total of over 11,000 profiles, totaling ~300 float years of biogeochemical measurements made publicly available in real time via the SOCCOM website and the Argo data system.  SOCCOM adjusted biogeochemical data are providing an unparalleled view of Southern Ocean biogeochemistry. Results from Year 5 include:


  • Refinement of estimates of a large, previously undocumented, winter-time CO2 flux from the ocean to the atmosphere that has implications for global carbon cycling (Gray et al, 2018; Bushinsky et al., in prep)
  • Development of multiple observing system design approaches for efficient BGC-float deployment planning (Talley et al., 2019)
  • Determination of the seasonal cycle of macronutrients  (Freeman et al., 2019).
  • First observations of biogeochemistry in the Weddell Sea Polynya (Campbell et al., 2019)
  • First water column observations of Scotia Sea Taylor column that initiates the largest early summer bloom (Prend et al., 2019)

Southern Ocean State Estimate

  • Released 2008-2012 and 2013-2017 B-SOSE solutions with 1/6 degree resolution
  • Work proceeded on a 1/12 degree solution and refinement of biogeochemical model

Physical Processes

SOSE was used to assess

  • the effects of sea ice export from the Ross Sea on cooling and freshening in the Southeast Pacific (Cerovečki et al., 2019) and
  • identify a deep eastern boundary current that carries Indian Deep Water along the southern boundary of Australia to the Southern Ocean (Tamsitt et al., 2019).


  • New feedbacks described related to carbon and heat uptake by the Southern Ocean associated with wind and melt from the coastal Antarctic (Bronselaer et al., 2018)
  • SOMIP experiments carried out in GFDL-CM4 (GFDL’s contribution to CMIP6)
  • The package with SOCCOM’s metrics (from Russell et al. 2018)  is now available at ESMValTool V2.0. The paper on which these metrics are based was cited as one of the 20 most read articles in JGR-Oceans for 2018.
  • CMIP5 Intercomparison published (Beadling et al. 2019)

Broader Impacts

Southern Ocean Model Intercomparison Project (SOMIP): SOMIP is officially part of FAFMIP and at least 3 of the climate modeling centers have agreed to, or already started, running the SOMIP experiments.

Knowledge Transfer: MBARI and UW have a long history of transferring float control and sensor technology to industry. Collaboration with two partner companies, SeaBird Electronics and Teledyne Webb Research, has resulted in first-generation commercial SOCCOM-type floats that are now available for use by the research community.  pH sensors used in the SOCCOM program are now available as commercial option from a variety of profiling float manufacturers.


  • A new initiative produced twelve videos for use on social media featuring early career SOCCOM scientists reflecting on SOCCOM’s biggest accomplishments and what it needs to focus on moving forward.
  • Coordinated successfully with SOCCOM partner institutions on two press releases.
  • Created ocean-themed content for the Ocean News section of the weekly Climate Matters newsletter that is sent to over 700 local TV weathercasters around the United States. Climate Matters is an NSF-funded program run by Climate Central that provides weekly climate science content (news, data, graphics, animations) to local TV meteorologists that they can use on-air, online and in their social media feeds. By adding an Ocean News section, TV meteorologists can now help their viewers better understand why the ocean plays such an important role in our climate system and how it is being impacted by climate change.
  • Social Media: SOCCOM’s social media following quadrupled in Year 5 growing to more than 2,500 followers across Twitter, Facebook and instagram by providing multiple posts on a daily basis.
  • Adopt-a-Float: Adopted and named 31 SOCCOM floats this year in schools across the United States. In addition, SOCCOM scientist Robert Key visited 13 schools in 9 states to talk about the important role the Southern Ocean plays in our climate system and how autonomous floats allow us to better quantify and understand changes in ocean geochemistry.
map image with dots for float locations