Greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions are increasingly recognized as a threat to the quality of life as well as to the economies of the world; a threat that requires close observation, forecast and policy. Transparent and accountable verification of greenhouse gas and aerosol sources and sinks is required. Such verification relies on the quantification of air-sea exchange of greenhouse gases and aerosols, both at the regional and global levels. In the wake of the Kyoto agreement, the political imperative for monitoring is running well ahead of scientific understanding.
The new international research initiative on Surface Ocean-Lower Atmosphere Study (SOLAS, sponsored by IGBP/SCOR/CACGP, with strong support from WCRP) aims to achieve quantitative understanding of the key biogeochemical-physical interactions and feedbacks between the ocean and the atmosphere, and to understand how this coupled system affects and is affected by climate and environmental change.
Today , some air-sea exchange processes are well understood at the local level, but remain inaccurately quantified globally. For example, in spite of the fact that the partial pressure of CO2 in water and the atmosphere is relatively well measured in the North Atlantic, the mean flux of CO2 is known to less than 5O% accuracy and its variability in unknown. For other processes, even the theoretical principles of local interactions remain uncertain. The generation of dimethylsulphide (leading to sulphate aerosols) is for instance linked to phytoplankton through unknown mechanisms. Building both on recent oceanographic and atmospheric research, SOLAS is a wilful attempt at advancing the understanding of air-sea processes through interdisciplinary collaborations. The SOLAS summer school will bring young researchers in contact with leading scientists of different components of SOLAS research, not only in a theoretical framework, but also through practical exercises and laboratory experiments.