PAOC Spotlights

Searching for Climate Clues in Southern Ocean Eddies

Tue December 11th, 2012
Genevieve Wanucha for Oceans at MIT

DIMES researchers hope that their data on ocean mixing may provide the missing ingredients to ocean climate models...

Map of the region of the DIMES field campaign, showing the tracer release point (cruise US1) and scatter plots of observed column integrated tracer (circles with radii proportional to concentration) from follow up cruises after 1 year (cruise US2), 2 years (cruise UK2), 2.5 years (cruise UK2.5) and 3 years (cruise US3). The simulated tracer concentration after 1 year (comparable to US2) is shaded from light blue to red. Credit: Ross Tulloch and John Marshall which can then be used to understand past climates, as well as make projections about the future.

'The vast Southern Ocean is the site of the upwelling branch of the ocean’s conveyor belt in which water sinks down in the cold areas of the northern North Atlantic and then slides up to the surface around Antarctica in the South. The cycle takes many hundreds of years to complete. This ‘overturning circulation’ brings up vast stores of carbon and heat stored in the ocean’s interior to interact with the atmosphere, and along with it, the key to a mystery so critical to our understanding of climate that a group of American and United Kingdom researchers receives 30 million dollars a year to solve it.'

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In this article, collaborators in the multi-million dollar Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (DIMES) project, among them Raf FerrariJohn Marshall, and Ross Tulloch from PAOC, as well as others from WHOI, talk to Oceans at MIT about their research and why it is important.