Unprecedented observations in the Southern Ocean help improve global climate models
PostedSep 4, 2020
Antarctica, Oceans, Physical Climate, Observations
The Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica is the stormiest place on Earth, marked by heavy cloud cover that helps determine how much of the sun’s energy reaches Earth’s surface. Due in part to the scarcity of field data from the region, current climate models have difficulty reproducing the behavior of clouds over the Southern Ocean, which in turn affects how well they can simulate current and future climate. Motivated by these data limitations, an international multi-agency effort collected atmospheric and oceanographic data via ship-, aircraft-, and island-based instrumentation in a set of recent campaigns, revealing details about clouds, precipitation, and other atmospheric properties in the region that will help improve weather and climate modeling and forecasting capabilities across the globe.
Together, the NSF-funded Southern Ocean Clouds, Radiation, Aerosol Transport Experimental Study (SOCRATES), the DOE-funded Macquarie Island Cloud Radiation Experiment (MICRE) and Measurements of Aerosols, Radiation and Clouds over the Southern Ocean (MARCUS) campaigns, and the Australian Clouds, Aerosols, Precipitation, Radiation, and Atmospheric Composition over the Southern Ocean (CAPRICORN) program captured extensive observations of cloud and aerosol properties and flows of energy between the atmosphere and ocean between 2016 and 2018.
Measurements taken by different instruments will be integrated to reveal details about the atmosphere from the surface up to about 6 miles (10 km), ultimately providing highly detailed data that can be used to improve model predictions.
In addition to these focused interagency field campaigns, the research and operational satellites of NASA and NOAA, respectively, provide information on the broader environment in which clouds form beyond the limited time periods of the campaigns. Together, data from focused field campaigns and ongoing satellite operations inform the larger-scale models that simulate the Earth’s climate system.
A researcher launches a radiosonde instrument attached to a weather balloon to capture detailed atmospheric data. Credit: National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Highlight Agency:Department of Energy, National Aeronautics & Space Administration, National Science Foundation