Tuesday, 16 January 2018 10:55

CSIRO undertakes voyage to understand ocean impact on climate Featured

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The CSIRO has deployed a number of deep sea floats in the Southern Ocean to help increase the understanding of oceans, the way they warm and their impact on climate.

The deep water Argo floats are being deployed by a research expedition that set sail last week for Antarctica in the CSIRO's research vessel Investigator. It will spend six weeks gathering information.

About 3800 Argo floats are already being used to collect information about ocean temperatures and salinity up to a depth of 2000 metres.

However, the new floats, which will be used by the expedition are data-collecting, autonomous ocean robots that can gather information up to depths of 5000 metres.

The chief scientist for the voyage, Dr Steve Rintoul, from CSIRO and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC, said research would provide information about the Southern Hemisphere ocean's capacity to continue to absorb heat and carbon dioxide.

“The world’s climate is strongly influenced by the oceans, and the vast Southern Ocean plays a major role in how climate variability and change will play out in future decades,” he said.

rintoul big

Dr Steve Rintoul with the Investigator in the background.

“We already know that the Southern Ocean makes important contributions to global sea level change through taking up more heat than any other ocean on Earth and through influencing how fast the Antarctic Ice Sheet loses mass.

“To understand this system we need comprehensive and continuous measurements over a huge area of ocean, which has been very difficult in the past.”

Dr Rintoul’s team will use 11 deep-water floats near the Antarctic edge that have been supplied by the Scripps Research Institute, US; Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology; and Laboratoire d’Océanographie et du Climat, France.

“It’s the first time these next-generation deep water Argo floats will be deployed near Antarctica. By providing year-round measurements through the full ocean depth, the floats will fill a massive data gap for the climate research community,” Dr Rintoul said.

Scientists will also measure trace elements like iron, using ultra-clean techniques to avoid contamination. Phytoplankton, like humans, need small amounts of iron to be healthy. The voyage will help identify what controls how much biological activity occurs in the Southern Ocean.

During the Investigator’s journey, an international team of scientists will carry out experiments to explore interaction between aerosols and clouds.

Bureau of Meteorology project leader Dr Alain Protat said the experiments would use aircraft, ship-based and satellite observations to collect detailed data on clouds and the interactions between incoming radiation, aerosol production, and then the formation of precipitation.

The Investigator is run by the Marine National Facility and is Australia’s only blue-water research vessel.

Photo: courtesy CSIRO

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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