Earth Science News  





. New Insights Into Southern Ocean's Role In Global Climate

Polarstern in Antarctica. Credit: Sarah Herrmann, Alfred Wegener Institute
by Staff Writers
Bremerhaven, Germany (SPX) Feb 06, 2008
In the Southern Ocean, large quantities of surface-drifting plankton algae are able to significantly reduce the carbon dioxide content of the surface waters, which can affect the global carbon dioxide cycle. This is one of the results from an Antarctic expedition which has just drawn to a close in Cape Town on February 4, and which was led by the Alfred Wegener Institute, part of the Helmholtz Association.

On February 5, an international team of scientists will discuss the results obtained to date and pressing questions of Antarctic research as part of a workshop aboard the icebreaker Polarstern. Federal research minister Dr Annette Schavan will use the opportunity to meet representatives of leading research institutions and South African ministerial colleagues. On February 6, Polarstern will promptly leave again for her next Antarctic expedition which is motivated by the International Polar Year 2007/08 and whose goal it is to understand the role of the Southern Ocean for past, present and future climate.

The Southern Ocean - a key region for global climate events
During expeditions of the research vessel Polarstern, and within the framework of the International Polar Year 2007/08, researchers from all over the world are making pioneer contributions to the understanding of the Southern Ocean. This massive water body surrounding the Antarctic continues to be largely unexplored.

However, since it has a significant effect on the climate of the entire earth, it is absolutely necessary to intensify research activities. The International Polar Year provides a unique opportunity for combining the scientific efforts of various countries in order to gain major insights.

First results from the expedition
The recently concluded Polarstern expedition had started in Cape Town on November 28, 2007 and was devoted primarily to organisms and materials cycles in the ocean. Under the leadership of Prof Dr Ulrich Bathmann of the Alfred Wegener Institute, 53 Scientists from nine countries have been studying the biological carbon pump in the Southern Ocean, among other topics. Algal plankton absorbs carbon through photosynthetic activity, hence removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Researchers have discovered that melting sea ice has created a pool of fresh water on the sea surface. Algal plankton growing in this pool started to decay and to sink to the seafloor. There, metabolic processes occurred.

The scientists investigated an algal carpet drifting in the water near the edge of the sea ice. This algal bloom measured 700,000 square kilometres, i.e. approximately twice the size of Germany. The researchers wanted to find out which physical conditions lead to such algal blooms, and how they affect the living and non-living environment. Their measurements demonstrate a significant decrease in the carbon dioxide content of the surface water. In addition, the new data show the effect of the plankton bloom on the species community at the seafloor.

For the first time ever the complete water column of the Southern Ocean - from the surface to the seafloor - was sampled simultaneously and comprehensively. The current inventory of the flora and fauna will also provide the basis for comparison with future investigations.

During the expedition, Polarstern also offered crucial support through her icebreaking capacity so that the construction materials for the new German Antarctic station Neumayer III could be unloaded despite severe ice conditions.

On February 5, an international workshop on climate research in the Southern Ocean will take place aboard Polarstern in Cape Town. The scientists aboard the French and German research vessels Marion Dufresne and Polarstern will meet South African partners to exchange results and plan future collaboration. Most German Antarctic expeditions leave from Cape Town, and it is intended to strengthen and intensify cooperation with South Africa regarding both marine sciences and logistics. Federal research minister Dr Annette Schavan will attend the workshop.

The next Polarstern expedition
On February 6, Polarstern will leave for the next Antarctic expedition under the leadership of Dr Eberhard Fahrbach of the Alfred Wegener Institute. The main expedition programme is motivated by the International Polar Year 2007/08. The two projects, CASO (Climate of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean) and GEOTRACES are focused on recording current physical and biogeochemical conditions in the Southern Ocean.

Recording equipment aboard Polarstern, as well as ocean-deployed buoys and drift units designed to sink to deep water will be measuring ocean currents in the Southern Ocean, distribution of trace substances, transport of water bodies, and interactions between sea and ice as well as ocean and atmosphere. This expedition is scheduled to end on April 16 in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Teacher participation in the expedition
Gaining insights into the global climate system is not the only objective of the International Polar Year. Involving the public, specifically the young generation, in ongoing research and provision of extensive information are central goals. For this reason, two teachers will also be aboard Polarstern.

Charlotte Lohse from Hamburg and Stefan Theisen from Kiel will be actively involved in the expedition research, allowing them not only to refresh their knowledge about current climate research, but also to communicate their insights via telephone and internet to their students.

"I hope that I can personally bring home many impressions from this research voyage, so that I can provide the students with a more accurate representation of the Polar Regions. During preparations for the trip and in conversations with my students, I have experienced great enthusiasm in these young people when it comes to the subject Antarctic", says Charlotte Lohse, teacher at Heisenberg Gymnasium in Hamburg.

Community
Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics




Tempur-Pedic Mattress Comparison

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News
River Plants May Play Major Role In Health Of Ocean Coastal Waters
Cambridge MA (SPX) Jan 31, 2008
Recent research at MIT's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering suggests how aquatic plants in rivers and streams may play a major role in the health of large areas of ocean coastal waters. This work, which appeared in the Dec. 25 issue of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics (JFM), describes the physics of water flow around aquatic plants and demonstrates the importance of basic research to environmental engineering.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • Tornadoes sweep southern US, killing 52
  • China premier predicts 'final victory' in weather war
  • Ticket scalpers thrive in China's frozen transport chaos
  • Limited Economic Impact But Chief Meteorologist Says China Unprepared For Weather

  • WMO plans conference on improving climate predictions
  • University Of Leicester Scientist Calls For Geological Time Machine
  • Can We Use Science To Solve Global Warming
  • Ancient Climate Secrets Raised From Ocean Depths

  • Indonesia To Develop New EO Satellite
  • Russia To Launch Space Project To Monitor The Arctic In 2010
  • New Radar Satellite Technique Sheds Light On Ocean Current Dynamics
  • SPACEHAB Subsidiary Wins NASA Orbiting Carbon Observatory Contract

  • EU industry shelving investments over emissions plans: association
  • Analysis: Europe's pipeline war
  • Fairchild Semiconductor Selects Pune, India For Research And Development Center
  • Offshore Alaska Lease Sale Vital To Meeting America's Energy Needs

  • Penn Researchers Discover New Target For Preventing And Treating Flu
  • Globe-Trotting Black Rat Genes Reveal Spread Of Humans And Diseases
  • Risk of meningitis epidemic in Burkina Faso increases
  • Analysis: NATO begins pandemic monitoring

  • Search For Extreme Organisms In Antarctica
  • Avian Origins: New Analysis Confirms Ancient Beginnings
  • Freshwater Fish Invasions The Result Of Human Activity
  • Markets Of Biodiversity And Equity In Trade An Illusion Or Not

  • MIT Program Aims To Monitor Air And Water Quality Around The Globe
  • New York City Uses Mobile GPS From AT and T and TeleNav To Help Keep City Clean
  • Italy pledges to honour Naples rubbish plan after EU ultimatum
  • Protecting The Alps From Traffic Noise And Air Pollution

  • Communing With Nature Less And Less
  • Blue-Eyed Humans Have A Single, Common Ancestor
  • Brain Connections Strengthen During Waking Hours And Weaken During Sleep
  • Higher China fines for stars breaking one-child rule: state media

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement