Climate models suggest the overturning circulation in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres is sensitive to climate change (e.g. IPCC, 2007). Enhanced greenhouse warming is expected to drive a more vigorous hydrological cycle, with increased precipitation at high latitudes and increased evaporation at low latitudes. The resulting reduction in surface salinity reduces the formation of dense water at high northern and southern latitudes. Palaeoclimate records demonstrate that changes in the overturning circulation have been associated with large and abrupt climate changes in the past (e.g. Clark et al., 2002). Southern Ocean overturning is thought to exert a strong control on global productivity and CO2 (Marinov et al., 2006), and changes in strength of the Southern Ocean overturning circulation have been linked to changes in the ocean uptake and release of carbon dioxide, both in the present-day ocean and in association with glacial–interglacial cycles. Sustained observations of temperature, salinity, stratification and ventilation are needed to detect changes in the overturning in response to changes in atmospheric forcing. The observations need to span the entire water column, and need to include carbon, oxygen and other tracers.
At the 2013 Scientific Steering Committee meeting in Shanghai, China, the SOOS Steering Committee identified the top gaps in observations for each of the 6 SOOS Science Themes that should be identified as "priority observations" for the coming years. SOOS encourages the community to develop field initiatives to address these key gaps and to highlight their contribution to the international SOOS effort through SOOS endorsement or other connections.
Repeat Hydrography, Argo floats, gliders, underway observations from ships, animal-borne sensors, surface drifters, bottom landers, moorings and sea-ice drifters.
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