Ross Sea Working Group

The Ross Sea WG will assist delivery of coordinated and, where possible, standardised observations of essential physical, chemical and biological variables in the West Antarctic Peninsula in the Southern Ocean in support of SOOS objectives.

If you are interested to keep informed of the upcoming activities of this group, please contact Mike Williams.




The Ross Sea is one of the most active sectors for Southern Ocean and Antarctic research, and forms a natural region for a working group. A previous SOOS Ross Sea Task Team developed a summary of observational efforts in the region, and this has served as a basis for the development of the regional working group. The recent announcement of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA) is providing impetus to develop this working group, as the research needs of the MPA have strong synergies with those SOOS. This group is co-chaired by SOOS SSC member Dr Mike Williams (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, NZ) and Dr Walker Smith (Virginia Institute for Maine Science, USA), and is open to all researchers from nations with active research programs in the Ross Sea.


The Ross Sea 2017 Workshop


The Ross Sea Working Group met for the first time 11-13 September 2017 in Shanghai, China, to develop an observation system for the Ross Sea region. The WG identified three key questions that motivate the need for an observing system in the Ross Sea. These are:

  1. How and when will change in the Ross Sea impact on the global ocean, and what will this impact be?
  2. What will the impact of the changing Southern Ocean be on the Ross Sea and when and how will this occur?
  3. How and when will change in the Ross Sea impact upon its biology and ecology, and what will those impacts be?


It was recognized there were different levels of existing knowledge underpinning each question. To balance these needs discipline based hypotheses were developed to motivate funding applications for the different observing system components. These are still being finalized, but broadly reflect the needs of the physical, biogeochemistry, and carbon compoents of the observing system, and many of the tropic levels in the benthic and pelagic ecosystems.


Complete design of the observing system will need a robust Observing System Simulation Exercise (OSSE) to assess where physical and biogeochemical observations are most effective. This will need to be coupled with analysis that incorporates understanding of life history, foraging and other geographic constraints on biological systems. However, several areas were identified as focus areas for observations because of either their dominant role, or the basic need for observations in poorly observed areas. These focus areas are:


  • Large polynyas important to sea-ice production and water mass transformations
  • Terra Nova Bay as a nursery for silverfish and a location of ecological richness. 
  • Boundaries of the Ross Sea including: Ocean surface, including in the marginal ice; Land/cryosphere interface with the ocean; Ice shelf front; and Slope Break
  • Eastern part of the continental shelf
  • Ross Gyre


Existing observation programmes such as the Italian Marine Observatory in the Ross Sea (MORSea) were recognized as being important due to the historical perspective they are able to provide, and their potential to serve as an ongoing backbone. However, in the case of MORSea, the need for international support while Italy is without a research vessel was identified as a significant risk for the observing system.


The SOOS objective of open data provision was endorsed by the meeting and participants encouraged to continue initiatives to achieve this across all disciplines.


The successful workshop was sponsored by the Institute of Oceanography, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China; Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Office, Woods Hole, MA, USA; Southern Ocean Observing System Office, Hobart, AUS; Second Institute of Oceanography, Hangzhou, China; and the National Laboratory for Marine Science and Technology, Qingdao, China.



Information coming soon...



  1. Ross Sea Task Team 2015 - Summary of Observational Efforts in the Ross Sea
  2. 1st Meeting of the Ross Sea Working Group - Workshop Report


NameStart DateLocation
Observing the Ross Sea11-09-2017Shanghai, China
Copyright 2015 Southern Ocean Observing System. All rights reserved.