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Press Release - International meeting on the Southern Ocean

Issue date: 14 Jul 2003
Number: 06/2003

The Role of the Southern Ocean in Global Processes: an Earth System Science Approach - 14-16 July 2003, London Embargoed until 08.30, 14 July 2003 Over 80 experts from around the world will meet next week (14-16 July) to discuss the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. It's the first attempt by scientists to take a collective approach to investigating an important marine environment that comprises more than 10% of the world's ocean, links the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans and represents the world's largest oceanic carbon sink. The meeting, organised and hosted by British Antarctic Survey (BAS), will review current knowledge of the Southern Ocean, the key role it plays in global ocean climate systems, and the sustainable management of marine living resources. BAS Director, Professor Chris Rapley CBE, says, "We are bringing together some of the top experts in the world to look at a key component of the Earth's system. The Southern Ocean influences the Earth's ocean currents and global climate. Its behaviour is as critical to the rest of the world as it is to the local environment. However, the impact of climate change and the commercial exploitation of its fish stocks could result in major and potentially damaging changes. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the region is currently very limited, and a new international effort to change this is required." The meeting expects to agree international research programmes for improved global climate models, for examining the circumpolar links between climate, ocean, ice and biological processes and the future sustainable management of marine life. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current, that isolates the frozen continent, is the most powerful current system on the planet and is known to influence the marine food web. Illegal and unregulated fishing threatens Antarctic animals such as seals, penguins, albatross and fish. By understanding the complex processes that affect the currents, atmosphere, sea ice and biology of the Southern Ocean, scientists can provide sound advice to international bodies responsible for its protection and sustainable management. ENDS Issued by BAS Press Office: Linda Capper tel: 01223 221448, mobile 07714 233744 email or Athena Dinar tel: 01223 221414, mobile: 07740 822229 email:
NOTES TO EDITORS: Picture Editors: Photographs and video footage of the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic shoreline are available from the BAS Press Office. The Role of the Southern Ocean in Global Processes: an Earth System Science Approach conference will be held at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London from the 14-16 July. The list of speakers and summaries of their talks are as follows: Monday *R. Pollard (Southampton Oceanography Centre) - The Role of the Southern Ocean in a Global Context The speaker reviews the role of the Southern Ocean in driving the world's oceans and the increasing evidence that it is the major up welling branch of the global thermohaline circulation. *A. Mackensen (AWI, Germany) - Changing Southern Ocean Palaeo-Circulation Patterns and Effects on Global Circulation The speaker explores the relationship between the formation of the Antarctic continental ice sheet and the development of the Circumpolar Current. *C. Parkinson (NASA, USA) - Observed and Modelled Trends in Sea Ice The speaker will show results from global climate model simulations to illustrate the importance of sea ice in the Southern Ocean on the model results. *I. Simmonds (University of Melbourne, Australia) and J.C. King (BAS, UK) - Global and Hemispheric Climate Variations Affecting the Southern Ocean Results from the recently released HADISST global sea surface temperature data set show the significant differences between the Southern Ocean and its Northern Hemisphere counterparts. Results from recent trends in freshwater fluxes in the Southern Ocean and how these may be related to the behaviour large-scale features such as El Nino, will be discussed. *X. Yuan (Lamont-Doherty Observatory, USA) - Impact of Large-Scale Climate Variability on Southern Ocean Sea Ice The speaker examines the responses of sea ice to major global and regional climate patterns. A new forecast model predicted the current large sea ice anomalies in Antarctica in 2003. Tuesday *S. Jacobs (Lamont-Doherty University, USA) - Bottom Water Production and its Link with the Thermohaline Circulation The speaker will provide a review of Southern Ocean bottom water production, its variability in relation to climate change, and its connections with the Antarctic Ice Sheet. *D.J. Olbers (AWI, Germany) - The Zonal and Meridional Circulation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current The speaker reviews the Antarctic Circumpolar Current Circulation's physical ingredients - currents, floaters and drifters like Phytoplankton and krill. Recent models are discussed and a new model concept of meridional overturning of the Southern Ocean is developed. * D. Thomas (University of Bangor, UK) and K. Arrigo (Stanford University, USA) - Large Scale Importance of Sea Ice Biology Sea ice is a unique habitat for plants and animals. These plants and animals that have adapted to living in ice are an important part of the marine ecosystem, requiring special biochemical and physiological adaptation that may have biotechnology applications. *E. Hofmann (Old Dominion University, USA) and E. Murphy (BAS,UK) - Advective Processes and Ecosystems New research using observation and modelling looks at the importance of ocean currents to Antarctic marine organisms. Changes in global climate and ocean currents can transport these marine animals far from their localised areas providing a possible threat to established areas such as fisheries. *S. Honjo (Woods Hole, USA) - Vertical Export Fluxes and Removal Processes for Biogenic Matter and Lithogenic particles in the Southern Ocean This speaker looks at how carbon taken up in the Southern Ocean is removed into the sediments and some of the nutrient limitations that stop this being an increasing sink for carbon dioxide. *P. Treguer (Institut Universitaire Europeen de la Mer, France) - Southern Ocean Biogeochemical Cycling and Global Processes Somewhere between 5-30% of atmospheric C02 is absorbed by the Southern Ocean. This paper looks at some of the uncertainties in estimating this. Wednesday *P. Liss (University of East Anglia, UK) - Air-Sea Gas Exchange The speaker discusses what is known about C02 levels in the Southern Ocean, including the sink for man-made inputs to the atmosphere of dimethyl sulphide and organo-halogen and alkyl gases *W. O. Smith (Virginia Institute of Marine Science, USA) and C. Lancelot (Universite Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium) - Bottom-Up Controls in Plankton Communities of the Southern Ocean The role of iron in controlling photosynthetic organisms in the Southern Ocean has helped scientists understand biological processes that affect the global carbon cycle. As the Southern Ocean is considered the largest sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide, understanding the biological processes that control this enigmatic process is essential to an understanding of the global carbon cycle. *V. Smetacek (AWI, Germany) - Role of Grazing in Regulating Carbon Flow into the Southern Ocean The speaker will summarise how Southern Ocean plays a key role in the global carbon cycle. Phytoplankton productivity in the ocean is affected by iron availability and this limits then amounts of atmospheric C02 the ocean can absorb. Increasing iron input via wind-blown dust from the continents (as during glacial periods) or by artificial fertilization, enhances productivity but the amount of C02 drawn down from the atmosphere may in the end depend on the grazing effect by zooplankton - currently the least understood link in the ocean's carbon cycle. *R. B. Aronson (Dauphin Island Sea Lab, USA), A. Clarke (BAS, UK), B. Blake (Dauphin Island Sea Lab, USA) and J. M. Gili (CMIMA Barcelona, Spain) - Ecological and Evolutionary Origins of Antarctic Marine Benthos The Antarctic marine environment is rich in species. Bright red starfish, giant predatory worms, huge sea spiders and many other bizarre creatures are extremely sensitive to global change. Continued global warming of such a cold and stable environment could have disastrous consequences for these unique and sensitive communities. *J. P. Croxall (BAS,UK) and S. Nicol (Australian Antarctic Division, Australia) - Management of Southern Ocean Resources as a Model for Global Sustainability Animals in the Southern Ocean are under increasing threat. Fishery management organisations and governments need to do more to eliminate illegal fishing and improve regulation of legal fishing. Seabirds (albatross and petrels), fur seals and penguins are under greater competition to find food or are simply being killed by fishing gear. *A. Busalacchi (University of Maryland, USA) - Overview and Conclusions
British Antarctic Survey British Antarctic Survey (BAS) undertakes a world-class programme of science in the Antarctic and related regions, addressing key global and regional issues through research, survey and monitoring. BAS also helps to discharge the UK's international responsibilities under the Antarctic Treaty System. British Antarctic Survey is part of the Natural Environment Research Council.