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Launch of new system for observing the Southern Ocean

An international committee of experts will meet this month to begin the implementation of a new observing system for the study of the Southern Ocean.

The Southern Ocean plays a key role in the climate and ecosystem functioning of the whole planet, but understanding has long been hampered by lack of data. The science community has established the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) to address this.

SOOS Executive Officer Dr Louise Newman said the new system highlighted the importance of a coordinated approach to research in the Southern Ocean.

"A key element of SOOS is the bringing together of different research communities to collectively tackle the really big issues confronting us" she said.

"Sustained, multi-disciplinary observations are required to detect, interpret and respond to change."

An international science committee has been formed, under the auspices of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), and other major international bodies. Dr. Mike Meredith of the British Antarctic Survey and Mr. John Gunn of the Australian Institute for Marine Science will initially chair the committee, which will meet in Salt Lake City this month to take the first steps in implementing SOOS.

Once established, SOOS will enable greater global understanding of such challenges including climate change, sea-level rise, ocean acidification and the sustainable management of marine resources.

"To deliver this information, strategic observations of the changing physical, biogeochemical and biological state of the Southern Ocean are critical," Dr Newman said.

"Advances in technology and knowledge mean that it is now possible to design and implement a sustained, feasible and cost-effective observing system for this remote environment."

The SOOS was established in August last year after the four-year development of a Science Strategy, led by SCAR, SCOR and the World Climate Resea

Contact: Peter Cochrane
British Antarctic Survey

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