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News Story - Launch of new system for observing the Southern Ocean

Date: 17 Feb 2012

A new observing system for the study of the Southern Ocean has been created to improve understanding of global challenges including climate change, sea-level rise, ocean acidification and the sustainable management of marine resources. An international committee of experts, chaired by Dr Mike Meredith of British Antarctic Survey, will meet this month to kick-off the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS).

The Southern Ocean plays a key role in the climate and ecosystem functioning of the whole planet, but understanding has long been hampered by lack of data. This international community of scientific experts will address the issue by taking a coordinated approach to research in the Southern Ocean.

SOOS Executive Officer Dr Louise Newman says,

“A key element of SOOS is the bringing together of different research communities to collectively tackle the really big issues confronting us. Sustained, multi-disciplinary observations are required to detect, interpret and respond to change.

“To deliver this information, strategic observations of the changing physical, biogeochemical and biological state of the Southern Ocean are critical. Advances in technology and knowledge mean that it is now possible to design and implement a sustained, feasible and cost-effective observing system for this remote environment.”

An international science committee has been formed, within the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), and other major international bodies. The committee will meet in Salt Lake City this month to take the first steps in implementing SOOS.

Dr Mike Meredith of British Antarctic Survey and co-chair of SOOS says,

“The Southern Ocean exerts fundamental controls on the functioning of the whole planet, but for decades we have been hindered by lack of data from this harshest of environments. SOOS is a major step forward in addressing this.”

The scientific priorities of SOOS address issues such as the role of the Southern Ocean on the planet’s heat and freshwater balance; stability of the Southern Ocean overturning circulation; the role of the ocean in the stability of the Antarctic ice sheet and its contribution to sea-level rise; future and consequences of carbon uptake; the future of Antarctic sea ice; and the impacts of global change on ecosystems.

Key to the success of SOOS will be delivering the new data to users seamlessly. SOOS will create a data portal, where researchers will be able to access all available Southern Ocean data, rather than only those created by their own programmes.


The SOOS was established in August last year after the four-year development of a Science Strategy, led by SCAR, SCOR and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP), among others.

The SOOS International Project Office is hosted by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at UTAS with additional support from the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), SCAR and SCOR.

Mr John Gunn of the Australian Institute for Marine Science will also chair the first committee meeting later this month in Salt Lake City alongside DR Mike Meredith.

Read the SOOS Initial Science and Implementation Strategy document (.pdf 7.23MB)