JC31: 'Ingredients' of the Southern Ocean


Cruise diary

Sunday 15 February 2009
Location: Drake Passage (62.17°S/65.13ºW)

Carbon and tracer transports

Two laboratory containers on the RRS James Cook are home to the carbon and tracer teams from the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich. In these mobile laboratories six marine chemists from the UK and the USA are carrying out measurements of inorganic carbon parameters and manmade tracers (chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs and sulphur hexafluoride or SF6) on seawater samples collected throughout the water column. The aim of the study is to quantify the transports of inorganic carbon and tracers across Drake Passage, between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula. In particular, we are interested in separating dissolved inorganic carbon into a natural term and one resulting from the oceanic uptake of the ‘extra’ carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. This oceanic CO2 sink is slowing down the increase in the atmospheric CO2 content by fossil fuel emissions by about 25%, thus reducing global warming. Accurate analyses of the manmade tracers are required for this separation of dissolved inorganic carbon into two terms.

On the ship the carbon and tracer teams take samples from the 24 Niskin water samplers on the CTD (conductivity, depth, temperature) rosette and analyse these samples 24 hours per day, 7 days a week in watches of 8 to 10 hours. Shift work in the laboratory containers consists of analysing samples, running calibrations, topping up chemicals, carrying out repairs and data processing. To date the analyses are going well, high quality cross-sections of carbon parameters and tracers are being generated and the team members are in good spirits.

Regards from Drake Passage,

Dorothee Bakker, Elizabeth Jones, Jennifer Riley (carbon), David Cooper, John Brindle, and Andrew Brousseau (tracers).

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