Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan


Flying lab to investigate Southern ocean’s appetite for carbon

Posted: January 7, 2016

Flying lab to investigate Southern ocean’s appetite for carbon The Southern ocean’s Livingston Island in the early morning light. Image courtesy of NOAA/Vents, Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI)

A team of scientists, including Assistant Professor Eric Kort, is launching a series of research flights this month over the remote Southern Ocean in an effort to better understand just how much carbon dioxide the icy waters are able to lock away.

According to a press release from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the ORCAS field campaign (led by NCAR) will give scientists a rare look at how oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between the air and the seas surrounding Antarctica. The data they collect will help illuminate the role the Southern Ocean plays in soaking up excess carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere by humans.

"If we want to better predict the temperature in 50 years, we have to know how much carbon dioxide the oceans and terrestrial ecosystems are going to take up," said NCAR scientist Britton Stephens, co-lead principal investigator for ORCAS. "Understanding the Southern Ocean's role is important because ocean circulation there provides a major opportunity for the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and the vast reservoir of the deep ocean."

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