UW Oceanographer Dropping Robotic Floats On Voyage To Antarctica

A University of Washington oceanographer is chief scientist on a voyage in the waters around Antarctica as part of a major effort to monitor the Southern Ocean.

Stephen Riser, a UW professor of oceanography, embarked Dec. 24 as part of the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling, or SOCCOM, project to collect better data about the planet’s most remote ocean.

UW Oceanographer Dropping Robotic Floats On Voyage To Antarctica

The expedition is two thirds of the way through a month-long voyage from Punta Arenas in southern Chile to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Along the way, researchers are deploying robotic floats built at the UW as part of the six-year, $21-million National Science Foundation effort. The multi-institutional project, based at Princeton University, will gather detailed observations of the Southern Ocean to understand its role in the global climate.

Read More: http://www.washington.edu/news/2017/01/11/uw-oceanographer-dropping-robotic-floats-on-voyage-to-antarctica/


The Shum Show Reports on SOCCOM From the Southern Ocean

Greta Shum of Climate Central is reporting on a SOCCOM cruise from Punta Arenas, Chile to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Watch her “cool” interview with Steve Riser of UW, float expert and lead SOCCOM scientist on the cruise, and see more videos on this adventure on our "SOCCOM At Sea" channel on YouTube.

Biogeochemical SOSE Solution Now Available

The Southern Ocean State Estimate (SOSE) is a general circulation model that is least squares fit to all available observations to produce a physically realistic estimate of the ocean’s state. As part of SOCCOM, a version of SOSE has been developed that incorporates biogeochemistry (B-SOSE), and a solution at 1/3 degree resolution for the period 2008 - 2012 is now available at http://sose.ucsd.edu/bsose_solution_Iter105.html. B-SOSE includes the BLING biogeochemical model which represents carbon, nitrogen and oxygen cycles, and constrains this output with biogeochemical data from Argo floats, hydrographic cruises, and satellites. Extensive validation of the solution is available at at http://sose.ucsd.edu/bsose_valid.html, and the SOSE team is happy to provide any additional diagnostics upon request.

Moving forward, the team will be focusing on a 2013-2020 “SOCCOM era” B-SOSE with assimilation of SOCCOM float data. For more information contact Matt Mazloff (mmazloff@ucsd.edu) or Ariane Verdy (averdy@ucsd.edu).

Biogeochemical SOSE solution now available

First Biogeochemical Argo Newsletter

Ken Johnson, our associate director, is co-chair of the new international Biogeochemical Argo Program that includes SOCCOM.  Read the program’s first newsletter HERE


SOCCOM Year 3 update in SOOS newsletter

Read about SOCCOM's Year 3 plans for float deployment at the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) website.SOCCOM 3 year plan

Nature article features SOCCOM research

An article by Jeff Tollefson in the November 16 edition of Nature magazine, "How much longer can Antarctica’s hostile ocean delay global warming?," features SOCCOM researchers Joellen (leader of the SOCCOM modeling group), Ken Johnson (SOCCOM Associate Director), and Jorge Sarmiento (SOCCOM director).  

Joellen Russell wasn’t prepared for the 10-metre waves that pounded her research vessel during an expedition south of New Zealand. “It felt like the ship would be crushed each time we rolled into a mountain of water,” recalls Russell, an ocean modeller at the University of Arizona in Tucson. At one point, she was nearly carried overboard by a rogue wave.

But what really startled her was the stream of data from sensors analysing the seawater. As the ship pitched and groaned, she realized that the ocean surface was low in oxygen, high in carbon and extremely acidic — surprising signs that nutrient-rich water typically found in the deep sea had reached the surface. As it turned out, Russell was riding waves of ancient water that had not been exposed to the atmosphere for centuries....read more



2016 AGU Fall Meeting: SOCCOM Presentations

AGU Fall Meeting

[Download printable version]


C21C: Variability in the Arctic and Antarctic: Sea Ice, Ocean, and Atmosphere Interactions I Posters
08:00 - 12:20
Moscone South - Poster Hall



C31B: The Future of Ice in the Polar World: Using Past and Present Data to Prepare for Rapid Change Posters
08:00 - 12:20
Moscone South - Poster Hall

C31B-0748 Tracking RAFOS-enabled, under-ice Argo profiling floats using a Kalman smoothing technique
Paul Chamberlain, Lynne Talley, Bruce Cornuelle, Catherine Hancock, Kevin Speer, Stephen Riser



OS41D: Recent Advances in Ocean Biogeochemical Observations and Modeling I
08:00 - 10:00
Moscone West - 3011

08:45 - 09:00
OS41D-04 Space and Time Variability of the Southern Ocean Carbon Budget
Isa Rosso, Matt Mazloff, Ariane Verdy, Lynne Talley

09:00 - 09:15
OS41D-05: Recent Ship, Satellite and Autonomous Observations of Southern Ocean Eddies
Peter Strutton, Sebastian Moreau, Joan Llort, Helen Elizabeth Phillips, Ramkrushnbhai Patel, Alice Della Penna, Clothilde Langlais, Andrew Lenton, Richard Matear, Hannah Dawson, Philip Boyd

09:30 - 09:45 (moved from OS43B)
OS41D-07: A 2008-2012 Biogeochemical Southern Ocean State Estimate
Matt Mazloff & Ariane Verdy

OS42A Recent Advances in Ocean Biogeochemical Observations and Modeling II
10:20 - 12:20
Moscone West - 3011

11:20 - 11:35
OS42A-05 The annual cycle of nitrate and net community production in surface waters of the Southern Ocean observed with SOCCOM profiling floats
Kenneth Johnson, Josh Plant, Carole Sakamoto, Luke Coletti, Jorge Sarmiento, Stephen Riser, Lynne Talley

12:05 - 12:20
OS42A-08 Southern Ocean Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen Fluxes Detected by SOCCOM Biogeochemical Profiling Floats (Invited)
Jorge Sarmiento, Seth Bushinsky, Alison Gray

​OS43A General Oceanography Posters
13:40 - 18:00
Moscone South - Poster Hall

​OS43B Recent Advances in Ocean Biogeochemical Observations and Modeling III Posters
13:40 - 18:00
Moscone South - Poster Hall

OS43B-2053 SOCCOM Biogeochemical Profiling Floats: Representativeness and Deployment Strategies Utilizing GO-SHIP/Argo Observations and SOSE/Hycom Model Output
Lynne Talley, Stephen Riser, Kenneth Johnson, Jinbo Wang, Igor Kamenkovich, Isabella Rosso, Matt Mazloff, Sarah Ogle, Jorge Sarmiento

OS43B-2051 Geochemical Evidence for Calcification from the Drake Passage Time-series
David Munro, Nicole Lovenduski, Taro Takahashi, Britton Stephens, Tim Newberger, Heidi Dierssen, Kaylan Randolph, Natalie Freeman, Seth Bushinsky, Robert Key, Jorge L Sarmiento, Colm Sweeney

OS43B-2032 Observations of the Southern Ocean oxygen cycle from profiling floats
Robert Drucker & Stephen Riser



C53E Glacier-Ocean Interactions, Mechanisms, and Synthesis II
13:40 - 15:40
Moscone West - 3007

Google Hangout: Southern Ocean: Early Clues to Answers

Tuesday, October 25th at 2:30 pm ET / 11:30 am PT
​(Do some technical difficulties, the recording of this event is not yet available)


At no time has a clear picture of our oceans' health been more important than now, as the international agreement reached in Paris to limit and reduce our carbon emissions goes into effect November 4.

That picture is coming into greater focus as scientists studying the Southern Ocean through the NSF-funded SOCCOM project begin analyzing data gathered by more than four dozen robotic floats deployed into this critically important body of water that encircles Antarctica. 

Join us Tuesday, October 25, at 2:30 pm EDT (11:30 am PDT) as leading oceanographers discuss the latest, and sometimes surprising, findings coming from their SOCCOM research. 

You'll have the opportunity to ask the scientists questions during the Hangout, or via Twitter at #SOCCOMHangout.

A profiling float becomes clear

Peering into the insides of a machine can be a useful way to learn about how it works. MBARI researchers Ken Johnson and Hans Jannasch created a transparent version of a profiling float, an instrument that makes biogeochemical measurements in the ocean, for educational purposes. To make the clear float, Jannasch collected old, discarded parts at MBARI and from partners at the University of Washington, and replaced the yellow outer casing of the float with a transparent PVC tube.

The inner parts are labeled and there are two cutaway elements—one to see the flow-cell, a device that allows seawater to be pumped over the sensors and shields the pH sensor from light, and another to see the bladder that inflates and deflates to allow the float to sink to the bottom and rise through the upper 2,000 meters of the open ocean, collecting measurements along the way. Jannasch, hailing from Germany, painted the cutaways red, a technique he remembers from his childhood when he saw an exhibit of a train that was cut in half in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

After the float was built, it was sent to the Hamptons, New York, where Peter DeMenocal from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory displayed it at a fundraiser to build an array of biogeochemistry floats. It is planned that this array will be used in research on how carbon dioxide cycles through the ocean. The float went on to an MBARI teacher workshop at Rutgers University, New Jersey, for a discussion about the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling program, a six-year program that consists of deploying an army of profiling floats in the Southern Ocean. This discussion was led by Robert Key, a research oceanographer at Princeton University, and George Matsumoto from MBARI for the 2016 Education and Research: Testing Hypotheses workshop. The clear float is currently on its way back to the west coast where Peter DeMenocal will display it at another high-profile fundraising event. The float will also be displayed at the upcoming Oceans Conference in Monterey, California, held by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, as well as at MBARI’s annual Open House, open to the public, on October 15, 2016.

Read More: http://www.mbari.org/a-profiling-float-becomes-clear/

Wind-Blown Antarctic Sea Ice Helps Drive Ocean Circulation

Antarctic sea ice is constantly on the move as powerful winds blow it away from the coast and out toward the open ocean. A new study shows how that ice migration may be more important for the global ocean circulation than anyone realized.

A team of scientists used a computer model to synthesize millions of ocean and ice observations collected over six years near Antarctica and estimated, for the first time, the influence of sea ice, glacier ice, precipitation and heating on ocean overturning circulation. Overturning circulation brings deep water and nutrients up to the surface, carries surface water down, and distributes heat and helps store carbon dioxide as it flows through the world’s oceans, making it an important force in the global climate system. The scientists found that freshwater played the most powerful role in changing water density, which drives circulation, and that melting of wind-blown sea ice contributed 10 times more freshwater than melting of land-based glaciers did.

A vital contributor to the process, the scientists discovered, was the seasonal migration of the ice, which is largely driven by winds. If the sea ice were instead forming and melting in the same place, there would be no net effect.

“If you were to turn off these winds and eliminate that pathway for moving sea ice away from Antarctica, you would probably significantly reduce the strength of the overturning circulation,” said lead author Ryan Abernathey, an oceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The study, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, uses a sophisticated approach to examine the complex problem of what is happening down under the ice, where direct observations are hard to come by. It provides new insight into the basic physics of the ocean that may be critical for answering future questions about climate change, such as how loss of sea ice or changing winds could affect global ocean circulation.

“Everyone is asking, is sea ice expanding or contracting? We’re coming at it from a different perspective: What does sea ice do to the underlying ocean?” Abernathey said.

When sea ice forms around the edges of Antarctica each winter, the salt in the ocean water doesn’t freeze; it stays behind. That makes the water near the coast much saltier and therefore denser than water off shore. Denser water sinks, and in doing so pushes less dense water up, driving circulation. Meanwhile, as sea ice melts farther out in the open ocean, it deposits its less-dense freshwater, moving denser water down.

Scientists have known for some time that changes in water density, particularly the sinking of cold, saline water, contribute to the ocean’s “abyssal circulation,” the deepest, coldest branch of the ocean conveyor belt, which moves cold Antarctic water northward along the ocean bottom. What has been less well understood is the role salinity might play in the “upper circulation,” which carries mid-depth water up to the surface in the Southern Ocean and eventually toward the tropics.

Using an analysis technique called water-mass transformation, the scientists were able to quantify the rate at which ice freezing and melt contribute to the upper circulation by making water near the coast denser and water in the open ocean lighter.

Ocean circulation is critical to the climate system because it distributes heat and helps store carbon dioxide in the deep ocean. Major climate changes in the past, including glacial periods, are believed to have involved changes in ocean circulation. To understand how circulation may be changing today, the next steps will be to look more closely at how salinity and wind speeds changed in the past, Abernathey said.

"This work shows really clearly that Antarctic sea ice plays a crucial role in the circulation of the world's oceans,” said coauthor Paul Holland of the British Antarctic Survey. “We have known for many years that the freezing of Antarctic sea ice in winter is responsible for forming the very deepest waters in the world oceans, but this study shows that melting the ice in summer also governs the formation of shallower waters. This advance has only been made possible by the state-of-the-art computer model used in this study, which assimilated millions of ocean observations.”

Other coauthors of the paper are Ivana Cerovecki, Matt Mazloff and Lynne Talley of Scripps Institution of Oceanography; and Emily Newsom of the University of Washington. The research received funding from the National Science Foundation.

# # #

The paper, “Water-mass transformation by sea ice in the upper branch of the Southern Ocean overturning,” is available from the author.

Scientist contact: Ryan Abernathey   rpa@ldeo.columbia.edu  (845) 365-8185

An animation showing ice movement in the Southern Ocean is available for download through Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/172015538

More information: Kevin Krajick, Senior editor, science news, The Earth Institute kkrajick@ei.columbia.edu 212-854-9729

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is Columbia University’s home for Earth science research. Its scientists develop fundamental knowledge about the origin, evolution and future of the natural world, from the planet’s deepest interior to the outer reaches of its atmosphere, on every continent and in every ocean, providing a rational basis for the difficult choices facing humanity.