Research looks to even more accurate monitoring of the Southern Ocean | Polarjournal
Elephant seals are lending a helping “head” in monitoring their habitat, the Southern Ocean. The probes cause no problems for the mammals, but provide critically important data for science. Image: Nico de Bruyn

The first Southern Ocean Observing System symposium, “Southern Ocean in a Changing World,” kicked off yesterday in Hobart, Australia. Over the next five days, scientists from around the world will share and assess their progress to date.

The Southern Ocean, as a critical component of the Earth’s climate system, including its inhabitants, is under increasing scientific observation and monitoring – from space, from the air, from sea ice and ice shelves, above and below the water, on the seafloor, and with the support of animals. Yet without an international effort to collaborate, coordinate the collection of data, and make it available to other researchers, making efficient use of this multitude of observations would be nearly impossible. To address this, the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) founded the international initiative SOOS – Southern Ocean Observing System.

Published in 2013, the SOOS vision, shown here schematically, includes an expansive array of data acquisition and transmission systems covering nearly all areas of the Southern Ocean. ( Illustration: SOOS)

This week, from August 14-18, 2023, some 300 leading researchers and data managers from international institutions, programs, and initiatives involved or interested in Southern Ocean observing will now meet for the first time in Hobart, Tasmania. Together, they will exchange views on the status of the current observing system and existing gaps, as well as next steps and opportunities to expand and optimize the system.

Specifically, the symposium is designed to support SOOS’ mission to “create a comprehensive, integrated and coherent observing system that is easily accessible and provides a foundation for the international scientific community to improve our understanding of the Southern Ocean and enable policymakers and decision makers to address important societal challenges,” according to the website.

Using SOOSmap, a web portal for the visualization and dissemination of oceanographic data, SOOS also provides an interactive tool to visualize and disseminate oceanographic data. (Image: Screenshot SOOSmap)

SOOS was established in 2011 and aims to “facilitate the sustained collection and delivery of essential observations of the Southern Ocean to all stakeholders, through the design, advocacy, and implementation of cost-effective observing and data delivery systems.” Subsequently, SOOS has built a large network of stakeholders and contributors from 29 countries, including Germany and France. Among the 65 institutions supporting SOOS are, for example, the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research and the British Antarctic Survey.

In times of massive global change, this meeting may be one of the most important scientific gatherings – because even small changes in the Southern Ocean have an impact on the rest of the world, especially through ocean currents. Learning more about its responses to global warming is therefore enormously important for the global community.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

Link to the SOOS-webpage: https://www.soos.aq/

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