Seasonality of Southern Ocean Dynamics from Antarctic radiocarbon observations

  • Project Duration: 3 years – over two Antarctic winters
  • Project Budget: $197,000

The interaction ocean and atmosphere in the Southern Ocean region is key to New Zealand’s climate, but deficits remain in its representations in current international climate models.  A major goal of the Deep South National Science Challenge is to develop a New Zealand Earth Systems Model (NZESM) that will improve the simulation of Southern Ocean processes, resulting in more robust predictions of the New Zealand climate. A correct simulation of Southern Ocean circulation dynamics is critical to projections of New Zealand’s climate.

This project will investigate Southern Ocean dynamics during the key Antarctic winter period using atmospheric observations of radiocarbon dioxide from Arrival Heights, Antarctica, collected across two Antarctic winters.  These measurements, in combination with ongoing measurements from Baring Head, Wellington, will provide wintertime north-south gradients across the Southern Ocean - without requiring field sample collection from the Southern Ocean itself during winter.  These gradients will allow us to evaluate ocean models with varying representations of overturning and other internal ocean dynamics to diagnose the models which most accurately simulate the observed atmospheric and oceanographic records, the outcome of which will feed directly into improved simulations by the NZ Earth System Model, representations of Southern Ocean dynamics, and better predictions of New Zealand’s climate. The project is well embedded in international research and will add to the existing body of research in its field.

Contact Principal Investigator
Jocelyn Turnbull, GNS Science,


Back to press release

Latest news and updates

The third Wai o Papa Exhibition: A project of hope for Māori Coastal communities

One Deep South Challenge project, within the Vision Mātauranga programme, has been exploring adaptation strategies to address climate change impacts on coastal Māori communities.

The future of climate modelling in New Zealand

A new paper published in the 2016 edition of Weather and Climate - the journal of the Meteorological Society of New Zealand - documents the purpose, challenges, next steps and future goals of the NZESM, the New Zealand Earth System Model.

“Accelerating progress in global modelling”: Milestone event for climate modellers

Recently, Deep South Challenge modellers met with experts from meteorological and research agencies in the UK, Australia, Korea, Philippines, India, USA, South Africa and New Zealand at a NIWA-hosted technical workshop on global climate modelling.