PML scientists, amongst a team of thirty others from eight of the UK’s top research laboratories, are participating in a major UK expedition to the Southern Ocean.
The team are setting out on an oceanographic mission to study the effect of ocean acidification in waters near Antarctica. The five week long research cruise, aboard the Natural Environment Research Council’s RRS James Clark Ross, departed yesterday for some of the coldest waters on Earth.
The ocean is an integral part of the climate system. By absorbing large amounts of the carbon dioxide (CO2), mostly produced as result of our use of fossil fuels, the ocean helps to slow the rate and severity of climate change. The global ocean has absorbed more than 30% of the total CO2 produced by human activities in the past 200 years. While this can be seen as a benefit, the down side is that as the ocean absorbs more and more CO2 its chemistry changes and the seawater moves down the pH scale towards acidity. This process is known as ocean acidification.
Cold waters naturally hold more CO2 than warmer waters so the icy Southern Ocean is expected to be especially informative for studying the effects of ocean acidification. Additionally, deep-water upwelling around Antarctica brings water to the surface that already contains very high levels of CO2. For these reasons, the waters of the Southern Ocean are likely to provide a unique window into how the marine environment will respond to higher CO2 levels in the future.
You can find out more about the PML scientists aboard and follow their journey to Southern Ocean here.