Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling

The Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling project (SOCCOM) is a multi-institutional program focused on unlocking the mysteries of the Southern Ocean and determining its influence on climate. Housed at Princeton University and administered by the Princeton Environmental Institute, SOCCOM is supported by the National Science Foundation under NSF Award PLR-1425989.

Over 30 SOCCOM Presentations at 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting


Check out our list of over 30 SOCCOM-related presentations at the annual meeting, and don't miss our Town Hall on Wednesday, February 14.



Follow Isa Rosso in the Southern Indian Ocean!

Follow Isa Rosso, on her third SOCCOM cruise!  Isa is deploying SOCCOM floats in the Southern Indian Ocean on a cruise led by India's National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR).

SOCCOM float surfaces inside rare Antarctic sea ice opening

Sea ice and clouds blanket the Weddell Sea around Antarctica in this satellite image from September 25, 2017. A SOCCOM float surfaced within the 60,000 km2 polynya (center) at the location marked in yellow. Image from MODIS-Aqua via NASA Worldview; sea ice contours from AMSR2 ASI via University of Bremen.

Contact: Ethan Campbell, University of Washington

A massive hole in the sea ice cover around Antarctica has been open for the past month1. Known as a polynya, this mysterious opening is the largest observed in the Weddell Sea since the 1970s. In recent studies, SOCCOM-affiliated researchers have used climate models to explore why these polynyas form and how they affect ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns2–5. However, the difficulty of mounting Antarctic expeditions in winter means that few actual measurements have been made of these rare events.

With the array of robotic profiling floats deployed as part of the SOCCOM project, an impromptu Antarctic expedition may not be necessary. Floats can collect ocean measurements year-round, even underneath sea ice. Last month, SOCCOM scientists were astonished to discover that a float in the Weddell Sea had surfaced inside the polynya, making contact with satellites in the dead of winter. Its new ocean measurements, transmitted when it surfaced, are being analyzed as part of a study in preparation on Weddell Sea polynyas. With these new observations comes the possibility that the polynya’s secrets may finally be revealed.



1. Stone, M. (2017, October 3). An enormous hole in Antarctica’s sea ice could help solve a climate riddle. Earther. Retrieved from https://earther.com/theres-an-enormousmysterious-hole-in-antarcticas-sea....

2. de Lavergne, C., Palter, J. B., Galbraith, E. D., Bernardello, R. & Marinov, I. Cessation of deep convection in the open Southern Ocean under anthropogenic climate change. Nat. Clim. Chang. 4, 278–282 (2014).

3. Zanowski, H., Hallberg, R. & Sarmiento, J. L. Abyssal ocean warming and salinification after Weddell Polynyas in the GFDL CM2G coupled climate model. J. Phys. Oceanogr. 45, 2755–2772 (2015).

4. Dufour, C. O. et al. Preconditioning of the Weddell Sea polynya by the ocean mesoscale and dense water overflows. J. Clim. 30, 7719–7737 (2017).

5. Cabré, A., Marinov, I. & Gnanadesikan, A. Global atmospheric teleconnections and multidecadal climate oscillations driven by Southern Ocean convection. J. Clim. 30, 8107– 8126 (2017).

#GreatAntarcticClimateHack held Oct. 9-12 at Scripps


The #GreatAntarcticClimateHack led by Joellen Russell is being held October 9-12, 2017, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Forum, La Jolla, CA – see agenda for details.

#GreatAntarcticClimateHack is a workshop to train non-modeling experts to use observational datasets to interrogate CMIP model results, thereby creating new model metrics and validation tools. The aim of the workshop is to facilitate preparation for the next IPCC report for a much broader science community, increase non-traditional climate modeling publications, and learn to apply/utilize data sets that help develop model validation skills. This first workshop will accommodate 50 participants on site, and 50 participants joining remotely online. 

Observations Lead Lynne Talley awarded Prince Albert Medal

Lynne Talley, SOCCOM Observations Lead and Distinguished Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography/UCSD, is the Prince Albert I Medal recipient 2017 for her outstanding contribution to our knowledge of the global ocean's water masses, circulation, dynamics and role in climate.   Read more about the history of the medal and Professor Talley's accomplishments on the IAPSO website.

Follow Melissa Miller deploying floats in the South Atlantic

Join Melissa Miller, a marine technician from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as she sails on an South African icebreaker deploying SOCCOM floats in the South Atlantic.

Marine technician Melissa Miller on Tristan Island

New study reveals 3-D paths of Southern Ocean upwelling

Veronica Tamsitt, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Despite covering only 30% of the global ocean area, the Southern Ocean absorbs nearly half of the total carbon dioxide and 75% of the total heat absorbed by the oceans from the atmosphere. By absorbing excess heat and carbon dioxide, the Southern Ocean is damping the effect of global warming. The stability of the future climate depends on the Southern Ocean’s capacity to continue to suck heat out of the atmosphere.

One key reason the Southern Ocean plays such an important role in climate is due to its ability to upwell cold, carbon- and nutrient-rich deep water. Strong winds blowing over the Southern Ocean pull cold, deep water from the ocean abyss to the sea surface, forming a connection between the deep ocean and the atmosphere. Despite the importance of the Southern Ocean upwelling in regulating the climate, the three-dimensional pathways of this upwelling are largely unknown. A new study in Nature Communications combines ocean observations with three state-of-the-art ocean models, revealing the full three-dimensional pathway of deep water to the surface of the Southern Ocean for the first time.

A team of researchers tracked upwelling by releasing virtual floats in the deep ocean in three models, tracking the path they follow to the surface of the Southern Ocean, and compared this to hydrographic observations. It was previously thought that deep water upwelled to the ocean surface broadly all the way around Antarctica. This new study shows that deep water is carried to the Southern Ocean in deep, narrow currents, which meet in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (see figure below). Most of the deep currents were already well known, but a new pathway was identified carrying deep water from the Indian Ocean to the Southern Ocean along the southern coast of Australia. The deep water spirals southward toward Antarctica and up to the surface with the help of topographic obstacles: undersea ridges and mountains that create hotspots of swirling eddies, which push water southward and up toward the surface. There are five of these major upwelling hotspots associated with large undersea topographic features, which are responsible for most of the upwelling in the Southern Ocean.

These results have identified critical regions for upwelling of deep water, which should be targeted with future research expeditions. The researchers have also shown how the role of ocean eddy hotspots can create chimneys connecting the deep ocean with the surface, where the ocean interacts directly with the atmosphere. Three-dimensional modeling of ocean circulation and eddy hotspots is crucial for understanding the ocean’s ability to absorb heat and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.


Three-dimensional pathways of deep water upwelling from the Atlantic Ocean (color; depth in m) over Southern Ocean topography (grey). Panel a) shows the depth of the relatively warm signature of Atlantic deep water spiraling southward and upward toward Antarctica in an ocean model, b) shows the pathways from virtual floats tracked in an ocean model, and c) shows two examples of virtual float trajectories upwelling from the eastern and western Atlantic to the sea surface.

Spiraling pathways of global deep waters to the surface of the Southern Ocean (Nature Communications)

Veronica Tamsitt1, Henri F. Drake2, Adele K. Morrison2,6, Lynne D. Talley1, Carolina O. Dufour2, Alison R. Gray2, Stephen M. Griffies3, Matthew R. Mazloff1, Jorge L. Sarmiento2, Jinbo Wang4, & Wilbert Weijer5

1 Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Princeton University

NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Los Alamos National Laboratory

6Australian National University

UW building underwater robots to study oceans around Antarctica

Hannah Hickey

UW News

The water circling Antarctica has some of the roughest, most dangerous conditions on the planet. This water also is crucially important to Earth’s climate: It stores a massive amount of carbon dioxide, supports vast communities of marine life and connects to all the major ocean basins.

UW oceanography professor Stephen Riser (right) and oceanography students with a disassembled model of one of the bigger, more complex SOCCOM floats. All the floats are painted school-bus yellow, and for the same reason: it makes them easy to spot.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

To learn how these waters work, University of Washington oceanographers are sending robots to monitor conditions too dangerous or expensive for research ships to visit regularly.

“The Southern Ocean is taking up a sizable fraction of all the atmospheric CO2 that goes into the ocean. But we know very little about the Southern Ocean, especially under the ice,” said Stephen Riser, a UW professor of oceanography.

His group has built Argo ocean-monitoring floats since 1999, and still builds about 120 per year for several international efforts. The hardy, low-power robots cruise through the world’s oceans collecting observations, what The New York Times a few years ago called “one of the scientific triumphs of the age.” The Seattle group is now in the middle of its toughest mission yet.     Read more...



SOCCOM-Led Sessions at 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting

Below is a list of sessions at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting that have been organized by SOCCOM members - please consider submitting abstracts and attending the meeting in Portland in February!

2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting

BN005: Biogeochemical Argo Science and Regional Profiling Float Studies including SOCCOM, NAOS, remOcean, INBOX and IOBioArgo

Primary Chair:  Kenneth S Johnson, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Watsonville, CA, United States
Co-chairs:  Herve Claustre, Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche, Villefranche-sur-Mer, France and Emmanuel Boss, University of Maine, Orono, ME, United States

Primary Chair:  Julie McClean, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
Co-chairs:  Joellen L Russell, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States, Stephen Matthew Griffies, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ, United States and Eric Chassignet, Florida State University, Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, Tallahassee, FL, United States

Primary Chair:  Alison R Gray, University of Washington, School of Oceanography, Seattle, WA, United States
Co-chairs:  Laure Resplandy, Princeton University, Department of Geosciences, Princeton, NJ, United States, Carolina Dufour, McGill University, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Montreal, QC, Canada and Ralph F Keeling, University of California-San Diego, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States

PL011: Transient Eddies, Stationary Meanders and Southern Ocean Circulation and Tracer Transport

Primary Chair:  Matthew W Hecht, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, United States
Co-chairs:  Carolina Dufour, McGill University, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Montreal, QC, Canada, Alison R Gray, University of Washington, School of Oceanography, Seattle, WA, United States and Adele K Morrison, Australian National University, Research School of Earth Sciences, Canberra, Australia

AI010: Southern Ocean air-sea exchange and mixed-layer processes

Primary Chair:  Martin S Hoecker-Martinez, University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Climate and Space Sciences, Ann Arbor, MI, United States; University of Redlands, Physics, Redlands, CA, United States
Co-chairs:  Sarah T Gille, UCSD, La Jolla, CA, United States, Daniel B Whitt, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Climate and Global Dynamics Laboratory, Boulder, CO, United States and Sebastiaan Swart, University of Gothenburg, Department of Marine Sciences, Gothenburg, Sweden

HE010: Response of the southern ocean, sea-ice and ice shelves to the changing climate

Primary Chair:  Darryn Waugh, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, United States
Co-chairs:  John Marshall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, United States, Marika M Holland, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States and Ryan Abernathey, Columbia University of New York, Palisades, NY, United States

PO006: Understanding the differing roles of ocean ventilation and mixing on heat and carbon uptake

Primary Chair:  John P Krasting, NOAA / Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ, United States
Co-chairs:  Michael Winton, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ, United States; NOAA / Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, Princeton, NJ, United States, Ric Williams, Liverpool University, School of Environmental Sciences, Liverpool, United Kingdom and Kirsten Zickfeld, Simon Fraser University, Department of Geography, Burnaby, BC, Canada

PL009: The Driving Forces of the Ocean’s General Circulation

Primary Chair:  Ali Mashayek, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA, United States
Co-chairs:  Lynne D Talley, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, Alberto Naveira Garabato, University of Southampton, National Oceanography Center, Southampton, United Kingdom and Colm-cille, Patrick Caulfield, University of Cambridge, BP Institute/Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, Cambridge, United Kingdom

T003: Impact of the Antarctic Ozone Hole on the Southern Ocean

Primary Presenter:  Anand Gnanadesikan, Johns Hopkins University, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Baltimore, MD, United States


Other Sessions of Interest:

AI007: Ocean Carbon Hot Spots: Biogeochemical cycling and anthropogenic carbon export in mode and intermediate water formation regions

AI008. Ocean salinity and its role in ocean dynamics and the water cycle

BN007: Biogeochemistry and Nutrients in open ocean waters: Sustainable Ocean Observations and Time Series Efforts

BN023. We shed light: Optical and imaging insights into the Biological Carbon Pump

HE001. Biological hot spots in icy waters: polynyas in a changing climate

HE004. Ice-Ocean Interactions and Circulation around the Antarctic Margin

HE007: Melting of glaciers, icebergs, ice shelves, and coastal permafrost and impacts on physical properties and biogeochemistry of the ocean

HE011. Similarities and differences of Ocean dynamics at both ends of the globe

IS010. New Platform and Sensor Technologies: Advancing Research, Readiness and Transitioning for Sustained Ocean Observing of Essential Ocean Variables

OC011. The ocean carbon cycle across timescales

OD006: Real-Time Quality Control of Oceanographic Data Emerging Technologies and their Data QC Practices

OM004: Ensemble Modeling Approaches in Physical and Biogeochemical Oceanography

OM005. High-Resolution Ocean Modelling for Ocean-Ice Sheet Interaction Studies around the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets

PC009. The Ocean as a Mediator of Climate and Climate Change