For Australians, added impetus is provided by the fact that what happens to the frozen continent and the Southern Ocean will have profound impacts on Australia.
The project aims to establish a world-class shipborne research infrastructure to measure air-sea interaction processes and integrate sea state measurements with lower atmosphere and upper ocean observations aboard research vessels. The project is timely and will deliver new standards in measuring fundamental processes and properties, sustaining Australian leadership in Antarctic and Southern Ocean expeditions, and underpinning the national effort to build the next generation of Earth system models.
The Southern Ocean plays a crucial role in the Earth’s climate system by storing incoming energy from the sun and transferring it back to the atmosphere in the form of heat and moisture, driving atmospheric circulation. Waves in the Southern Ocean contribute to a well-mixed layer that can store more heat and gases, including greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, than any other latitude band on the planet. However, the effects of waves and sea ice on the climate system are not fully understood and remain poorly represented in climate models. In situ observations of the ocean and sea ice surface are critical to improving our understanding of these processes, but such observations are currently limited. Multidisciplinary expeditions that unite Earth science and engineering disciplines are beginning to explore the interplay of processes in the lower atmosphere, ocean surface, and subsurface in the Southern Ocean. These expeditions use pioneering shipborne imaging technology to record data on waves, wave breaking, surface current, and sea ice properties in support of lower atmosphere observations.
The team is made up of ten CIs, five PIs—two from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), two form the CSIRO and one from the maritime industry—and one Software Engineer. The CIs and PIs bring multidisciplinary expertise in atmospheric science, biogeochemistry, glaciology, oceanography, ocean engineering and marine hydrodynamics, encompassing field campaigns, atmospheric and ocean technology, remote sensing, and climate and theoretical modelling. They will contribute to all the development stages for the proposed infrastructure to ensure its functionality, integration with other concurrent measurements occurring on the vessels and suitability to underpin future research and development.
The proposed facility is a research infrastructure that comprises a cluster of “electronic eye” cameras with sensors capable of recording images of the ocean surface in the visible, near infrared and infrared range.
The proposed infrastructure aims to provide new measuring standards for observing air-sea interaction processes and sea ice features that are currently under-sampled. This equipment will help address challenges in contemporary Earth system models and contribute to improving accuracy and precision in predicting and measuring the impact of environmental changes caused by climate and local factors. The partners, including AAD, CSIRO, and Pivot Maritime, will benefit from the facility and leverage the data and research to advance operational services, such as environmental monitoring, global atmospheric and ocean hindcast, and unmanned ship development.