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Expedition to North Atlantic to help form UK strategy to climate crisis

Scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) have planned an expedition to help create the UK’s strategy to the climate crisis.

During their trip to the North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre, the researchers will measure ocean changes and how this will affect the UK’s weather systems.

The results will inform how the UK should try to prevent and adapt to the effects of global heating.

ice berg beside river

Professor Penny Holliday, Head of Marine Physics and Ocean Climate, at the National Oceanography Centre, said: ‘This ground-breaking research will provide vital evidence to policymakers deciding on the UK Government’s future strategy for combatting climate change. NOC is playing a leading role in gaining an understanding into previously unknown areas of ocean research and its impact on populations worldwide, and this expedition will take this research towards net zero oceanographic capability using new technologies.’

The group will be setting off onboard the RSS James Cook and will be attempting to better understand ocean circulations based on continuous observation of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Data collected will help to solve uncertainties about the global carbon cycle, including how carbon is exchanged between its four main reservoirs – the atmosphere, biosphere (vegetation), oceans and sediment.  

Scientists are set to study the impact these changes to the cycle will have on the marine ecosystem, such as fish stocks and the health of the protected marine areas west of the UK.

To do so, the team will make observations of ocean variables, such as temperature, salinity, carbon and oxygen, and measure water pressure at the seafloor using a new recorder.

The recorder is planned to remain in the water for 10 years, with data recorded being sent back to base remotely.

Water pressure at the bottom of the sea is 300 times greater than air pressure on land and changes to this can provide knowledge about the ocean currents.

If successful the new device could set the path for net zero methods to measure ocean currents.

Dr Ben Moat, Co-Chief Scientist for the expedition and Physical Oceanographer at the National Oceanography Centre, added: ‘It’s really exciting to see this brand-new technology being deployed to assist with our research. The UK-OSNAP (UK Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic) expedition will help us better understand ocean circulations by constant observations of the North Atlantic Subpolar Gyre. Using new technology such as the latest UK Argo floats and a new drift-free pressure recorder will allow easier data collection and will help to better inform climate change solutions.’

Photo by Annie Spratt

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