The physical characteristics and dynamics of the ocean and atmosphere are central to understanding the scale sensitivity of the seasonal cycle variability and trends of the carbon cycle in the Southern Ocean and how it influences global Carbon – Climate feedbacks. SOCCO researchers pursue research focused predominantly on how synoptic forcing of the upper ocean interacts with submesoscale (<10km) to mesoscale (10-200km) oceanographic processes that influence upper ocean mixing and stratification dynamics. Our science makes use of regional and global models to extend these local dynamics to the Southern Ocean as a whole including both subduction and sea ice processes. These approaches make South Africa a leading contributor to Southern Hemisphere ocean and climate science.
SOCCO’s ocean physics-related research takes an integrated approach to observations and modelling, combining the use of numerical modelling simulations, ship-based observations and high-resolution observations from autonomous ocean gliders and floats. Emphasis has been placed on resolving the seasonal cycle of upper ocean physical processes in the Southern Ocean and relating these to biogeochemical responses. This was undertaken through the Southern Ocean Seasonal Cycle Experiment (SOSCEx) deployment of coupled surface and ocean interior robotic instruments i that continuously observe the ocean and air-sea exchange processes for extended periods of time (6 months) and resolving the temporal and spatial scales of variability at unprecedented high resolution.
Our research contributes to South Africa’s developmental needs by using novel approaches in advanced observations, numerical modelling and analysis to train undergraduate and post-graduate students.