Le RRS James Cook à quai à Southampton - source : NOC News

Heading for the heart of the North Atlantic subpolar gyre!

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British scientists from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton and Scottish scientists from SAMS (Scottish Association for Marine Science) in Oban have embarked on a new expedition to the North Atlantic.
Their aim is to measure oceanic changes and their impact on UK weather forecasting systems through continuous observations of the North Atlantic subpolar gyre.

UK contribution to the fight against climate change

A new research expedition left on 12 July 2022 on board the RRS James Cook in the heart of the North Atlantic. This campaign is the British contribution to the international OSNAP (Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program).

OSNAP is an international programme designed to provide a continuous record of the entire water column, heat, mass and freshwater fluxes between basins in the subpolar North Atlantic.
The OSNAP observing system has two branches: one running from southern Labrador through the mouth of the Labrador Sea to the south-western tip of Greenland (OSNAP West), and the second from the south-eastern tip of Greenland to Scotland (OSNAP East).

It also includes subsurface floats (OSNAP floats) to trace the path of overflow water in the basin and to assess the connectivity of currents through the OSNAP line.

Valuable data for better climate prediction

It is essential to measure and better understand the various mechanisms involved in the dynamics of the North Atlantic ocean and its interaction with the atmosphere. This region is indeed a key zone for the climate machine, as it is the point of passage between the equatorial and polar zones where temperature, salinity, heat and energy are exchanged in a very contrasting manner.

Diagram of the OSNAP network of observations in the North Atlantic (source: UK_OSNAP)

In addition to observing classic ocean variables such as temperature, salinity, carbon and oxygen, during this expedition the team will deploy a new recorder to measure the pressure of the water on the seafloor. The pressure recorder will remain in the water for ten years, transmitting the recorded data regularly from a distance, without the need to retrieve the device.

The pressure on the sea floor is three hundred times greater than the air pressure on land, and its evolution over time provides scientists with information about ocean currents. The data from this new pressure recorder should pave the way for carbon-free methods of measuring the huge ocean currents that flow across the North Atlantic.

Deployment of the bottom pressure recorder
Source: Kristen Burmeister (Physical Oceanographic Scientist at SAMS)

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