Because it serves as the primary gateway through which the intermediate, deep, and bottom waters of the ocean interact with the atmosphere, the Southern Ocean has a profound influence on the oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon and heat. Yet it is the least observed and understood region of the world ocean because of harsh conditions. The oceanographic community is on the cusp of two major advances that have the potential to transform understanding of the ocean’s role in climate. The first is the development of new biogeochemical sensors mounted on autonomous profiling floats that allow sampling of ocean biogeochemistry and acidification in 3-dimensional space. The second is that the climate modeling community finally has the computational resources and physical understanding to develop fully coupled climate models that can represent crucial mesoscale processes in the Southern Ocean. Together with the observations, this new generation of models provides the tools to vastly improve understanding of the ocean’s ability to absorb anthropogenic carbon and heat both today and into the future.

Joellen Russell,
1885 Society Distinguished Scholar,
Associate Professor,
Department of Geosciences,
College of Science,
University of Arizona


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