"Not only will this research improve our understanding of ocean currents, but will also feed into our knowledge of how the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic continent drives the world's climate processes," Dr Gales said.
Dr Rintoul was Chief Scientist on the recent voyage and has made a dozen voyages to the Southern Ocean. "When we speak of global warming, we really mean ocean warming: more than 90 per cent of the extra heat energy stored by the earth over the last 50 years has gone into warming up the ocean.
The Southern Ocean is particularly important because it stores more heat and carbon dioxide released by human activities than any other region, and so helps to slow the rate of climate change" Dr Rintoul said. "A key goal of our work is to determine if the Southern Ocean will continue to play this role in the future."
The causes of the observed changes in the Southern Ocean are not yet fully understood. Changes in winds, sea ice, precipitation, or melt of floating glacial ice around the edge of Antarctica may be responsible. Data collected on the latest voyage will help unravel this mystery.
A major challenge is the lack of observations at high latitude, where much of the ocean is covered by sea ice in winter. During the voyage scientists deployed nine drifting profilers, called Argo floats, which will transmit profiles of temperature and salinity every 10 days for the next five years. These ice-capable floats in the seasonal ice zone in the Australian sector of the Southern Ocean are funded through Australia's Integrated Marine Observing System.
"The Argo floats have revolutionised our ability to measure the ocean, particularly in winter when ship observations are very rare," said Dr Rintoul. "On this voyage, we deployed a new kind of float designed to survive encounters with the sea ice. These floats will allow us to see how dense water forms in winter for the first ti
|Contact: Craig Macaulay|