NASA's ocean voyage to probe climate-relevant gases

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Washington, Feb 22 : A voyage, co-sponsored by NASA, will embark on a research mission on February 28 to the Southern Ocean, to study how gases important to climate change move between the atmosphere and the ocean under high winds and seas.

The other sponsors of the voyage are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Science Foundation.

Scientists from dozens of universities and research institutions, who would be abroad the ship, plan to measure turbulence, waves, bubbles, temperature and ocean color, and investigate how these factors relate to the air-sea exchange of carbon dioxide and other climate-relevant gases.

"We will be directly assessing the rate and mechanism by which the ocean is taking up carbon and releasing it," said cruise co-chief scientist David Ho of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, New York.

This research will help improve the accuracy of climate models and predictions.

"NASA's ongoing effort to understand the global carbon cycle will benefit from the data this cruise will produce about the mechanisms that govern gas transfer in this remote part of the world's ocean," said Paula Bontempi, manager of NASA's ocean biology and biogeochemistry research program at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"NASA's global satellite observations of ocean color that reveal so much about the health of our oceans also will be improved in this region as we validate what our space-based sensors see with direct measurements taken at sea," she added.

The Southern Ocean covers a vast area and has some of the roughest seas on Earth.

"It is the largest ocean region where the surface waters directly connect to the ocean interior, providing a pathway into the deep sea for carbon dioxide released from human activities," said Christopher Sabine, an oceanographer at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle.

The world's oceans are estimated to absorb about 2 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year, which is about 30 percent of the total annual global emissions of carbon dioxide.

"Understanding how atmospheric carbon dioxide is absorbed into these cold surface waters under high winds speeds is important for determining how the ocean uptake of carbon dioxide will respond to future climate change," he added.


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