Climate models

Advanced ocean robots provide better global climate models

A team of researchers from the University of Gothenburg has deployed advanced ocean robots to conduct an international study of storm-watching above the waters around Antarctica. The study found that these storms cause outgassing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and 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. As a result, the area impacts global climate, with complex processes causing air-sea gas fluxes.

New research published in Nature gives a new insight into this system.

Sebastian Swart is 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 depths to the surface. This results in 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 importance of the Southern Ocean for climate and the global carbon budget,” says Swart.

The Southern Ocean contains half of all the carbon dioxide bound to the world’s oceans. Since climate change could lead to more intense weather in the future, including storms, it is important to understand the impact of carbon dioxide outgassing in the atmosphere.

Marcel du Plessis from the University of Gothenburg participated in the study.

“Knowledge is needed to be able to make more accurate predictions of future climate change. Currently, these environmental processes are not captured by global climate models,” says Plessis.

Autonomous ocean robots and drones

It is extremely difficult to measure the waters around Antarctica given their intense nature. However, new robotic technology makes this process easier. The researchers relied on autonomous ocean robots, drones and ocean gliders to collect data from the surface to depths of one kilometer. This data was collected over a period of several months.

“This pioneering technology has given 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 gaps in our knowledge and better understand the importance of the ocean to climate, says Swart.