Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Antarctic expedition provides new insights into the role of the Southern Ocean for global climate

07.02.2008
Federal research minister aboard the research icebreaker Polarstern

In the Southern Ocean, large quantities of surface-drifting plankton algae are able to significantly reduce the carbon dioxide content of the surface waters, which can affect the global carbon dioxide cycle. This is one of the results from an Antarctic expedition which has just drawn to a close in Cape Town on February 4, and which was led by the Alfred Wegener Institute, part of the Helmholtz Association.

On February 5, an international team of scientists will discuss the results obtained to date and pressing questions of Antarctic research as part of a workshop aboard the icebreaker Polarstern. Federal research minister Dr Annette Schavan will use the opportunity to meet representatives of leading research institutions and South African ministerial colleagues. On February 6, Polarstern will promptly leave again for her next Antarctic expedition which is motivated by the International Polar Year 2007/08 and whose goal it is to understand the role of the Southern Ocean for past, present and future climate.

The Southern Ocean – a key region for global climate events

During expeditions of the research vessel Polarstern, and within the framework of the International Polar Year 2007/08, researchers from all over the world are making pioneer contributions to the understanding of the Southern Ocean. This massive water body surrounding the Antarctic continues to be largely unexplored. However, since it has a significant effect on the climate of the entire earth, it is absolutely necessary to intensify research activities. The International Polar Year provides a unique opportunity for combining the scientific efforts of various countries in order to gain major insights.

First results from the expedition

The recently concluded Polarstern expedition had started in Cape Town on November 28, 2007 and was devoted primarily to organisms and materials cycles in the ocean. Under the leadership of Prof Dr Ulrich Bathmann of the Alfred Wegener Institute, 53 Scientists from nine countries have been studying the biological carbon pump in the Southern Ocean, among other topics. Algal plankton absorbs carbon through photosynthetic activity, hence removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Researchers have discovered that melting sea ice has created a pool of fresh water on the sea surface. Algal plankton growing in this pool started to decay and to sink to the seafloor. There, metabolic processes occurred.

The scientists investigated an algal carpet drifting in the water near the edge of the sea ice. This algal bloom measured 700,000 square kilometres, i.e. approximately twice the size of Germany. The researchers wanted to find out which physical conditions lead to such algal blooms, and how they affect the living and non-living environment. Their measurements demonstrate a significant decrease in the carbon dioxide content of the surface water. In addition, the new data show the effect of the plankton bloom on the species community at the seafloor. For the first time ever the complete water column of the Southern Ocean – from the surface to the seafloor – was sampled simultaneously and comprehensively. The current inventory of the flora and fauna will also provide the basis for comparison with future investigations.

During the expedition, Polarstern also offered crucial support through her icebreaking capacity so that the construction materials for the new German Antarctic station Neumayer III could be unloaded despite severe ice conditions.

International workshop

On February 5, an international workshop on climate research in the Southern Ocean will take place aboard Polarstern in Cape Town. The scientists aboard the French and German research vessels Marion Dufresne and Polarstern will meet South African partners to exchange results and plan future collaboration. Most German Antarctic expeditions leave from Cape Town, and it is intended to strengthen and intensify cooperation with South Africa regarding both marine sciences and logistics. Federal research minister Dr Annette Schavan will attend the workshop.

The next Polarstern expedition

On February 6, Polarstern will leave for the next Antarctic expedition under the leadership of Dr Eberhard Fahrbach of the Alfred Wegener Institute. The main expedition programme is motivated by the International Polar Year 2007/08. The two projects, CASO (Climate of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean) and GEOTRACES are focused on recording current physical and biogeochemical conditions in the Southern Ocean. Recording equipment aboard Polarstern, as well as ocean-deployed buoys and drift units designed to sink to deep water will be measuring ocean currents in the Southern Ocean, distribution of trace substances, transport of water bodies, and interactions between sea and ice as well as ocean and atmosphere. This expedition is scheduled to end on April 16 in Punta Arenas, Chile.

Teacher participation in the expedition

Gaining insights into the global climate system is not the only objective of the International Polar Year. Involving the public, specifically the young generation, in ongoing research and provision of extensive information are central goals. For this reason, two teachers will also be aboard Polarstern. Charlotte Lohse from Hamburg and Stefan Theisen from Kiel will be actively involved in the expedition research, allowing them not only to refresh their knowledge about current climate research, but also to communicate their insights via telephone and internet to their students. “I hope that I can personally bring home many impressions from this research voyage, so that I can provide the students with a more accurate representation of the Polar Regions. During preparations for the trip and in conversations with my students, I have experienced great enthusiasm in these young people when it comes to the subject Antarctic”, says Charlotte Lohse, teacher at Heisenberg Gymnasium in Hamburg.

Susanne Diederich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.awi.de

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Predicting unpredictability: Information theory offers new way to read ice cores
07.12.2016 | Santa Fe Institute

nachricht Sea ice hit record lows in November
07.12.2016 | University of Colorado at Boulder

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>