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Not just going with the flow: does biological production rather than deep water formation drive the Southern Ocean carbon sink?

Project Description

The Southern Ocean (SO) is thought to have absorbed ~40% of all global human-derived (anthropogenic) carbon dioxide and >75% of anthropogenic heat, thus being disproportionately influential in mitigating increasing atmospheric CO2 levels and related climate effects. Current explanations of SO carbon uptake and historical climate transitions focus on the interaction between the surface and deep ocean around Antarctica, i.e. processes that impact intermediate and dense water formation as part of the global overturning circulation (buoyancy fluxes, sea ice production), and how the marine carbon system responds to them. However, new results suggest that in fact open-ocean biological production / carbon export away from dense water formation regions is the key process by which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere, forcing us to reframe our understanding of how the SO carbon system functions. This project will test this changed paradigm using new observations from satellites, research cruises, autonomous biogeochemical float deployments and a biogeochemical ocean assimilation model to deconvolve the carbon system in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. The focus will be on identifying the balance between physics and biology in driving SO carbon uptake, and how these are likely to change into the future.

Funding Notes

You can apply for fully-funded studentships (stipend and fees) from INSPIRE if you:
Are a UK or EU national.
Have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
Have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the project.

Please click View Website for more information on eligibility and how to apply


MacGilchrist, G.A., A. C. Naveira Garabato, P. J. Brown, L. Jullion, S. Bacon, D.C.E. Bakker, M. Hoppema, M.P. Meredith, and S. Torres-Valdés (in press) Reframing the carbon cycle of the subpolar Southern Ocean, Science Advances.

Evans, G. R., E. L. McDonagh, B. A. King, H. L. Bryden, D. C. E. Bakker, P. J. Brown, U. Schuster, K. G. Speer, and S. M. A. C. van Heuven (2017), South Atlantic interbasin exchanges of mass, heat, salt and anthropogenic carbon, Prog. Oceanogr., 151, 62–82, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2016.11.005.

DeVries, T., M. Holzer, and F. Primeau (2017), Recent increase in oceanic carbon uptake driven by weaker upper-ocean overturning, Nature, 542(7640), 215–218, doi:10.1038/nature21068

How good is research at University of Southampton in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 68.62

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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