Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM)

James Swift, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Susan Becker, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Proposal Abstract: 

 The Southern Ocean Carbon and climate Observations and Modeling (SOCOM) project will drive

a transformative shift in our understanding of the crucial role of the Southern Ocean in taking

up anthropogenic carbon and heat and resupplying nutrients from the abyss to the surface.

An observational program will generate vast amounts of new biogeochemical data that will provide

a greatly improved view of the current Southern Ocean, including tracking ocean acidification.

A modeling effort will apply these observations to enhancing understanding of the current

ocean, and reducing uncertainty in projections of future carbon and nutrient cycles and climate.

Intellectual Merit :

 Because it serves as the primary gateway through which the intermediate, deep, and bottom

waters of the ocean interact with the surface and thus the atmosphere, the Southern Ocean

has a profound influence on the oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon and heat as well as

nutrient resupply from the abyss to the surface. Yet it is the least observed and understood

region of the world ocean. The oceanographic community is on the cusp of two major advances

that have the potential to transform understanding of the Southern Ocean. The first is the

development of new biogeochemical sensors mounted on autonomous profiling floats that allow

sampling of ocean biogeochemistry and acidification in 3-dimensional space with a temporal

resolution of five to ten days. The SOCOM float program proposed will increase the average

number of biogeochemical profiles measured per month in the Southern Ocean by ~10-30x. The

second is that the climate modeling community finally has the computational resources and

physical understanding to develop fully coupled climate models that can represent crucial

mesoscale processes in the Southern Ocean, as well as corresponding models that assimilate

observations to produce a state estimate. Together with the observations, this new generation

of models provides the tools to vastly improve understanding of Southern Ocean processes and

the ability to quantitatively assess uptake of anthropogenic carbon and heat, as well as nutrient

resupply, both today and into the future.

In order to take advantage of the above technological and modeling breakthroughs, the SOCOM

initiative coordinated by Princeton University (Sarmiento), will implement the following research:

* Theme 1: Observations. Scripps Institution of Oceanography (Talley) will be responsible

for a field program to expand the number of Southern Ocean autonomous profiling floats and

equip them with sensors to measure pH, nitrate, and oxygen. The University of Washington (Riser)

and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (Johnson) will design, build, and oversee deployment

of the floats. Scripps will also develop a mesoscale eddying Southern Ocean state estimate

that assimilates physical and biogeochemical data into the MIT ocean general circulation model.

* Theme 2: Modeling. The University of Arizona (Russell) and Princeton University (Sarmiento),

together with NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), will be responsible for

using SOCOM observations to develop data/model assessment metrics and next-generation model

analysis and evaluation, with the goal of improving process level understanding and reducing

the uncertainty in our projections of future climate.

Broader Impacts :

 Led by Climate Central (Cullen), an independent, non-profit journalism and research organization

that promotes understanding of climate science, SOCOM will collaborate with educators and

media professionals to inform policymakers and the public about the challenges of climate

change and its impacts on marine life in the context of the Southern Ocean.

In addition, the SOCOM integrated team of scientists and educators will:

* communicate data and results of the SOCOM efforts quickly to the public through established

data networks, publications, broadcast media, and a public portal;

* train a new generation of diverse ocean scientists, including undergraduate students, graduate

students, and postdoctoral fellows versed in field techniques, data calibration, modeling,

and communication of research to non-scientists;

* transfer new sensor technology and related software to autonomous instrument providers and

manufacturers to ensure that they become widely available.

External Principal Investigator: 
Jorge Sarmiento, Princeton
Start and End Date: 
August 2014 to August 2020