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.