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Thursday, April 24, 2014
 

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'Unlocking the Mysteries of the Southern Ocean'



Climate Central interviewed Jorge Sarmiento regarding the Southern Ocean and his work to model its role in the carbon cycle. Read more.


Video Closed Captions


DR. JORGE SARMIENTO: It's a
very, very far away and it's a

very severe climate, and a
very hard place to work.


DR. OSCAR SCHOFIELD: It is
an extreme environment.

There' not many places on this
planet that is truly untamed

and unexplored.


DR. JORGE SARMIENTO: It's
mysterious, because there's a

lot of things going on that
are very, very complex.


DR. HEIDI CULLEN: We live in
anxious times, on a stressed

planet, where increasing levels
of carbon dioxide and

higher temperatures contribute
to a host of extremes--


more withering heat waves,
increased drought, torrential

rainstorms.

The oceans are rising and
becoming more acidic.

Earth is a place looking for
and needing solutions.

Key to a solution is the ability
to model and predict

our changing climate.

And for that, the answer may
rest not on land or even in

the atmosphere, but in a vast,
mysterious body of water the

size of Asia, Africa, North
America, and Europe combined--

the Southern Ocean.


DR. JORGE SARMIENTO: The oceans
take up about a quarter

of the carbon dioxide that
we're putting into the

atmosphere by fossil fuel
burning and deforestation.

And of that quarter, fully 50%
goes into the Southern Ocean,

even though the ocean is just
a quarter of the ocean area.

DR. HEIDI CULLEN: In addition to
absorbing such huge amounts

of the world's greenhouse gases,
the Southern Ocean also

accounts for about 60% of the
excess heat transferred from

the atmosphere to the ocean.

And this sprawling body of
water that encircles

Antarctica serves as a kind of
mix master to the planet's

oceans, a place where different
water masses from

around the world come together,
combine, and then

are sent back out, supplying
nutrients to a majority of the

Earth's seas.

Yet despite its critical
importance, the Southern Ocean

remains one of the least
understood and most

under-explored regions
on our planet.

DR. OSCAR SCHOFIELD: The
oceans are chronically

under-sampled.

We do a poor job studying it
with traditional techniques,

despite our best efforts.

DR. JORGE SARMIENTO: Now we have
something completely new,

a new way of studying this that
doesn't require us to be

there, which are these floats
that are capable of observing

the Southern Ocean remotely
on very rapid time scales.

They can resolve things in
time as well as space.

DR. OSCAR SCHOFIELD: The new
technologies are going to be

the only way we're going to get
enough data and the right

kind of data to essentially
help build the models to

simulate future oceans.


DR. HEIDI CULLEN: Here at
Princeton University, the

observational data and the
modeling come together under

the umbrella of C-SOBOM, short
for the Center for Southern

Ocean Biogeochemical
Observations and Modeling.

In addition to Princeton,
C-SOBOM draws on the talents

of top scientists at leading
institutions, including the

University of Arizona, the
University of Washington,

Rutgers, Johns Hopkins, MBARI,
Scripps, and my organization,

Climate Central.

Climate modelers, observational
scientists,

educators--

coordinated and committed to
unlocking and communicating

the mysteries of the
Southern Ocean.

DR. JORGE SARMIENTO: There's a
sense of urgency that I feel

that events, climate change,
carbon chemistry changes, like

acidification of the ocean,
are going to outrun our

ability to observe
the ocean to do

something about these things.

DR. OSCAR SCHOFIELD: When I see
the large changes and I

sort of look at it, I
have two reactions.

First, as a scientist, I get
really curious about

what's going on.

You combine that with a concern
about where the

ocean's going and how that might
affect the planet for my

kids, adds a little bit of extra
passion to make sure you

follow through to try to do
the best job you can.


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