The Future of Southern Ocean Observing Systems
Wednesday, 16 December 2015: 11:37
103 (Moscone South)
Knowledge of the Southern Ocean’s role in global climate from seasonal to millennial timescales is evolving, with rapidly increasing recognition of the centrality of the Southern Ocean to Earth’s heat, carbon, nutrient, and freshwater budgets, and of the impact of interactions between the ocean and the major ice shelves and grounded ice sheets of Antarctica, which have been decreasing in mass. Observations in this data-sparse and logistically remote region have never been so important, and many nations are rising to the challenge of supporting both experiments and long-term sustained observations. As illustrated in the figure from Meredith et al. (Current Op. Env. Sustain. 2013), autonomous in situ technologies are at the fore because of the difficulty and expense of sending ships year-round and because the crucial satellite remote sensing must be accompanied by in situ observations, including beneath sea ice and ice shelves. The Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) has grown out of this recognized need for coordinated observations from the Antarctic coastline northward to the subtropics, from the bottom water production regions in coastal polynyas over the continental shelves, to the regions of interaction of warm ocean waters with Antarctic ice shelves, beneath the vast seasonal sea ice region, and in the hot spots of air-sea fluxes and cross-Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) mixing where the ACC interacts with topography and continental boundaries. The future includes international coordination and collaboration and strengthening of new and existing technologies, which include satellite observing, ice-enabled profiling floats, profiling from marine mammals, moored measurements in many strategic locations, glider and other autonomous operations in all regions, and drilling through floating ice shelves to measure the ocean waters below. Improved and consistent weather observations around the Antarctic coastlines will improve forecasting and reanalysis. Ice breaker ships will remain necessary to provide access to all of these regions.