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,


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