Scientists make urgent call to expand research in the Southern Ocean

E-mail Print
The first international conference of the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) was held this week in the Antarctic city of Hobart, Australia. The mission of SOOS is to provide an international forum for scientists from around the world to work together to define the big questions facing Antarctic Ocean science, and to promote and coordinate the national observing activities needed to achieve those scientific goals.
At the conclusion of the conference, the scientists made an urgent call for the immediate expansion of Southern Ocean science in the midst of the climate crisis and made a joint statement noting that no single nation can provide the research needed to address the climate issues we face.
Dr. Juan Höfer, an oceanographer at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV) and researcher at the High Latitude Marine Ecosystem Dynamics Research Center (IDEAL) of the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACh) headed one of the SOOS working groups. "Situations such as the historic minimum of Antarctic sea ice that we are experiencing now, show us how essential it is to monitor the Southern Ocean to understand the transformations we are observing and predict the changes that will affect the future of the entire planet," he said.
SOOS co-chair Dr. Sian Henley said this is a critical time to unite the world and focus attention around the Southern Ocean, which occupies a central role in the global climate system. "It is only because of long-term observations over the last 30 years or so that we now understand how important the Southern Ocean is. To a large extent, the Southern Ocean controls the absorption of human-generated heat and carbon within it and allows our planet to remain habitable. However, despite the efforts of long-term programs carried out by several nations, the Antarctic Ocean remains one of the least observed regions on our planet," he explained.
"As winter sea ice extent shrinks and penguin populations change dramatically, it is more urgent than ever to have a sustained and coordinated observing system in the Southern Ocean to understand current conditions and inform predictions of future states," adds Henley.
Dr. Andrew Meijers, a member of the SOOS Scientific Steering Committee, said that when it comes to climate change, the Southern Ocean is effectively at the center of the world. "Global warming is actually ocean warming, and the Southern Ocean controls the rate of melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, which is the biggest uncertainty in estimating and projecting future sea level rise. The rapid changes occurring in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean at this time create an urgent need for additional research funding.”
"Much of the Southern Ocean, the deep ocean, under ice in winter, the carbon cycle, changes in biology due to sea ice, the interaction of the ice sheet and the ocean, remain a critical gap in our observational network. We need to create a long-term, ongoing, multinational research program that is circumpolar, extending around the entire contour of Antarctica," said Meijers.

Subscribe Today!