Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The start of a major new research project...by Carol Arrowsmith

Carol trying out a snowmobile at the British Antarctic Survey
A major new project to investigate how heat and carbon is transferred around the oceans kicked off in April. Here Carol Arrowsmith, a senior technician with the Stable Isotope Facility at the British Geological Survey (BGS) tells us how the BGS are contributing to this important research……..
 
After years of planning, NERC commissioned several highly ambitious research programmes that required its Research Centres to work together to tackle several major scientific and societal challenges. One of these is a programme called “Ocean Regulation of Climate through Heat and carbon Sequestration and Transports” or ORCHESTRA involves the BGS, and in particular me as one of the major analysts. We aim to use a long term survey, together with computer simulations, to improve our ability to understand and predict the role of the Southern Ocean currents to modulate global climate.

The mass spectrometer used for measuring oxygen and carbon
isotopes from marine water samples in order to investigate the
transport of heat and carbon around global oceans
My particular contribution to this research is the analysis of the oxygen and carbon isotope composition of the ocean waters along several transects from the Atlantic equator to the ocean around Antarctica. The data I will produce will help us trace marine currents and see where carbon is either absorbed by the ocean or is expelled. This is particularly important due to current increases in atmospheric CO2.

At a recent meeting at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge I collected the first 1000 samples and the data production is underway. The further 14000 samples collected over the next 5 years will keep me busy! I look forward to seeing the first data and will provide regular updates on our discoveries about how heat and carbon moves around the oceans.

The ORCHESTRA programme is led by Prof. Mike Meredith (British Antarctic Survey) in partnership with several NERC Centres including the BGS.


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