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SOCLIM: Collecting never-before-available climate change data from the Southern Ocean

Teams from the Laboratoire d'Océanographie Microbienne – LOM, UPMC-CNRS [Microbial Oceanography Laboratory], Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique – LMD, ENS-CNRS-UPMC-Ecole Polytechnique [Laboratory for Dynamic Meteorology] and Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche – LOV, UPMC-CNRS [Villefranche Oceanography Laboratory] in France launch the Southern Ocean and Climate (SOCLIM) project with support from the BNP Paribas Foundation.

The Southern Ocean plays an extremely important role in the climate of our planet. This is due firstly to its geographical location at the centre of the world’s oceans, linking the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean and cooling over half of total ocean volume by 2°C; and secondly to the fact that a large proportion of the 50% of total anthropogenic CO2 which is absorbed by the oceans is absorbed by the waters of the Southern Ocean, which are cold but low in marine phytoplankton. Today these natural mechanisms risk being disturbed by climate upheavals linked to human activity.

In order to gain a better understanding of exactly what is happening, the SOCLIM team, led by Stéphane Blain (LOM, UPMC-CNRS), Hervé Claustre (LOV, UPMC-CNRS) and Sabrina Speich (LMD, ENS-CNRS-UPMC-Ecole Polytechnique), is deploying a new generation of cutting-edge instruments.

The processes to be investigated are:

  • Heat and carbon exchanges between the atmosphere and the ocean. Quantifying these processes requires parameters such as temperature, salinity, wind speeds and CO2 pressure in the air and the water to be accurately measured. Measurements must be made with sufficient granularity over time and space to be able take into account the very small-scale variations in the processes. Only autonomous observations as planned under the SOCLIM project are capable of attaining this objective.
  • Carbon storage/sequestration mechanisms in the ocean. SOCLIM will study two types of mechanism: carbon storage through oceanic circulation (physical pump) and carbon storage through biological activity (biological pump). The biological pump is the process by which CO2 is transformed by micro-algae into particulate carbon, some of which then forms sediment in the deep ocean.
  • The bio-optical anomaly observed on the surface of the Southern Ocean. In addition to the measurements taken on site, satellites are essential tools for studying the ocean’s surface. For example, observing the colour of the water enables the researchers to determine the quantity of chlorophyll present and thus the extent of micro-algae in the surface layer.  Algorithms are used to calculate the amount of chlorophyll present on the basis of water colour data. The Southern Ocean is a special case where the algorithm currently in use tends to underestimate the quantity of chlorophyll. SOCLIM will look into the reasons for this anomaly and endeavour to develop an algorithm specifically for use in the Southern Ocean.

In order to investigate these processes, SOCLIM will deploy new state-of-the-art instruments: profiling floats and moored instruments.

The mon océan & moi (‘my ocean and me’) learning programme:

The SOCLIM project team intends to share its research with the general public, especially young people and school students. Accordingly, SOCLIM is taking part in the ‘mon océan & moi’ (, @monoceanetmoi), (my ocean and me) programme, an initiative led by LOV and its partners, which seeks to raise public awareness of the issues, with the aim of promoting the inclusion of marine sciences in school activities.

The programme is based on two pillars:

  • Free access to teaching resources devised by the researchers in close collaboration with schoolteachers. Together with their teachers and with support from scientific researchers and coordinators, the pupils can explore a range of ocean-related topics and interact via the special ‘Ocean Voyagers’ website.
  • The ‘Adopt a Float’ initiative, which encourages schoolchildren to ‘adopt’ a submarine robot (a Bio-Argo profiling float) and follow it on its scientific voyage via the dedicated website. Students have direct access to the data gathered, some of which they are able to study.

Laboratoire d’Océanographie Microbienne – LOM [Microbial Oceanography Laboratory]

The Microbial Oceanography Laboratory is a joint unit of the Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Enjoying a worldwide reputation in the field of microbial ecology and marine biogeochemistry, LOM currently has around fifty researchers, technicians and students. Over the last ten years LOM researchers have led international research projects and participated in major oceanographic projects in the Southern Ocean.

Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique –LMD [Laboratory for Dynamic Meteorology]

Founded in 1968 as a unit of France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), the Laboratory for Dynamic Meteorology has since 1998 functioned as a mixed research unit spread over three university sites in Paris and its surrounding suburbs: the École Polytechnique, the École Normale Supérieure, and the Pierre and Marie Curie University. LMD is a member of the Pierre Simon Laplace Institute (IPSL), a group of six state-run laboratories in the Greater Paris region which carry out environmental science research. The laboratory carries out research into climate phenomena, pollution, planetary atmospheres and, more generally, the hydrosphere covering the earth’s surface. Its work combines theoretical approaches and practical developments in observation and digital modelling. Work at LMD currently focuses on two main themes: anthropic causes of climate change; and the dynamic physical processes in the hydrosphere.

Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche – LOV [Villefranche Oceanography Laboratory]

The Villefranche Oceanography Laboratory is a joint unit of the Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). With around a hundred researchers, technicians and students, the laboratory has an international reputation in the fields of biogeochemistry, marine optics, and zooplankton and microbe ecology. LOV hosts a large number of international conferences and participates in many European and international research projects.

The BNP Paribas Foundation –

Established under the aegis of the Fondation de France, the BNP Paribas Foundation has been engaged in major philanthropic works for 30 years, encouraging and contributing to the BNP Paribas Group’s charitable and community support initiatives in all parts of the world where the Bank does business.

The BNP Paribas Foundation’s activities are focused on supporting and assisting innovative projects in three main fields: Arts & Culture, Social Inclusion and Environmental Care.  The Foundation’s policy is to provide optimal support to its partner organisations, through a commitment to working with those partners and their projects over the long term. Dialogue, loyal support and a relationship based on trust are the hallmarks of that commitment.

The year 2014 marked the 30th anniversary of the BNP Paribas Foundation. Since it was set up in 1984, the Foundation has provided support to more than 300 arts & culture projects, some 40 scientific research programmes and around one thousand education and social inclusion initiatives, in France and across the world.

The Climate Initiative programme –

The BNP Paribas Foundation is providing assistance to SOCLIM as part of the Climate Initiative, a corporate philanthropy programme launched by the Foundation in 2011, in close liaison with the BNP Paribas Group CSR department, to support research into climate change.  A total of ten climate change research projects have received, or are currently receiving, financial support under the Climate Initiative.