A team of researchers at the University of Gothenburg deployed advanced ocean robots to carry out an international study observing storms over the waters around Antarctica. The study found that these storms cause an outgassing of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and it can help experts better understand climate change and develop better global climate models.
Intense Waters Around Antarctica
The waters of the Southern Ocean, which surrounds Antarctica, contain large amounts of carbon dioxide. Because of this, the area has an impact on global climate, with complex processes causing air-sea fluxes of gasses.
The new research published in Nature provides fresh insights into this system.
Sebastian Swart is a professor of oceanography at the University of Gothenburg and co-author of the study.
“We show how the intense storms that often occur in the region increase ocean mixing and bring carbon dioxide-rich waters from the deep to the surface. This drives an outgassing of carbon dioxide from the ocean to the atmosphere. There has been a lack of knowledge about these complex processes, so the study is an important key to understanding the Southern Ocean’s significance for the climate and the global carbon budget,” says Swart.
The Southern Ocean contains half of all carbon dioxide bound in the world’s oceans. Since climate change could cause more intense weather conditions in the future, including storms, it is important to understand the impact of outgassing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Marcel du Plessis from the University of Gothenburg was a participant in the study.
“Knowledge is necessary to be able to make more accurate predictions about future climate change. Currently, these environmental processes are not captured by global climate models,” Plessis says.
Autonomous Ocean Robots and Drones
It is extremely difficult to measure the waters around the Antarctic given their intense nature. However, new robotic technology is making this process easier. The researchers relied on autonomous ocean robots, drones, and ocean gliders to collect data from the surface all the way down to depths of one kilometer. This data was collected over a period of several months.
“This pioneering technology gave us the opportunity to collect data with long endurance, which would not have been possible via a research vessel. Thanks to these ocean robots we can now fill important knowledge gaps and gain a better understanding of the importance of the ocean for the climate, says Swart.