Staff

Researchers to see below the ice

An Argo float, a free-drifting profiling float that measures the temperature and salinity of the upper 2000 m of the ocean, being deployed in the Southern Ocean.

More than 50 scientists from around the world will meet in Hobart next week (22-25 October) to attend a workshop designed to develop the first strategy to peer beneath Antarctic ice and observe environmental and ecosystem shifts caused by a warming global ocean.

When complete, a proposed network of instruments, profilers and sensors will shed light on a significant science blind spot – how quickly is the sub-ice ocean warming?

The four-day workshop, Seeing Below the Ice, will be led by the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS), an international secretariat hosted by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania.

The workshop is sponsored principally by CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Research Flagship and will take place at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research on the Hobart waterfront.

Southern Ocean specialist and SOOS Scientific Steering Committee member Dr Anna Whlin (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) said monitoring the waters in the Antarctic sea-ice zone has been out of the reach of science until very recently.

Although it has an Antarctic focus, Dr Whlin said the workshop will draw on the expertise of Arctic research where efforts to observe the ocean are far more advanced.

“Accelerating changes in the Antarctic sea-ice zone and to the major ice sheets have far-reaching effects through their impact on global sea-level rise and warming rates.

“However, the polar oceans under ice are the least understood and most poorly monitored physical systems on the planet, and a gap in the Global Climate Observing System,” Dr Whlin said.

The focus of Seeing Below the Ice is on the ocean between the northern boundary of the winter sea-ice edge, varying between 60˚ S - 70˚ S, and the Antarctic coast and consider interactions between the ocean and both sea ice and glacial ice.

Many of the key scientific questions concerning the role of high latitude ice-ocean-atmosphere interactions in the climate system remain unanswered because of a shortage of observations.

New technologies in under-ice robotic Argo profilers, gliders, moored instruments and satellite sensors now allow such measurements to be made.

The goal of the workshop is to develop a strategy for sustained observations of the Antarctic sea-ice zone. The strategy will include observations needed for the study of interactions between the ocean and both sea ice and glacial ice, including the sub-ice-shelf cavity and deep troughs through which warm ocean waters access the shelf region.

For more information, contact Fiona Taylor in the SOOS International Project Office (info@soos.aq)

Image caption: An Argo float, a free-drifting profiling float that measures the temperature and salinity of the upper 2000 m of the ocean, being deployed in the Southern Ocean (Photo: Alicia Navidad, CSIRO).

Published on: 17 Oct 2012 5:08pm