Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - FAASIS (Fellowships in Antarctic Air-Sea-Ice Science)

The project set out with twin objectives. Firstly to study, in a holistic and interdisciplinary way, the linkages that connect the oceanic, atmospheric and cryospheric compartments within the Antarctic climate system, both in the present and in the past. The approach has been to combine measurements in the ocean, atmosphere and cryosphere, with multiple interlinked modelling technique, to investigate changes in chemical, physical and biological cycles on short (diurnal, seasonal, intra-annual) and longer term (decadal, millennial) time scales. This has enabled a better understanding of the drivers of these changes in terms of physical oceanography, oceanic biological productivity, atmospheric dynamics and chemical composition, and relationships with climatic variability. Secondly the intension was to provide high level training of international graduates to PhD level, and hence bring forward a new phalanx of European doctoral researchers in the field of climate science. Almost all of the fellows engaged in FAASIS had the opportunity to take part in Antarctic field work.

Some scientific outcomes can be highlighted. The oceanic biosphere is both profoundly impacted by - and is an indicator of - environmental change in the Southern Ocean, and is also itself an agent of change through (for instance) sequestration of atmospheric CO2, and formation of clouds condensation nucleii. The interdependencies between different parts of the marine biosphere in this region are now better studied and understood as a result of FAASIS, including the impact of environmental pressures such as ocean acidification from increased CO2. These studies have encompassed different parts of the relevant food chain from zooplankton and Pteropods up to cetaceans. These observations are providing vital input to synthesizing models such as the dynamic green ocean model. Another important facet of Antarctic climate is the dynamics of atmospheric circulation over the region, and ocean currents around it, and how these respond to climatic changes.

They collectively affect not only the interchange of heat and chemicals between ocean and atmosphere, but also physically redistribute nutrients and marine populations within the Southern Ocean. Work on katabatic winds, which are one of the most important means by which energy and momentum is transferred between surface and atmosphere, and on drifter buoys released in to the ocean, have led to improved parameterisations in models and an ability to 'map out' the pathways of such currents. An improved methodology for measuring isotopes of nitrogen as a 'thermometer' in ice cores has revealed the occurrence of rapid climatic variations during the last glaciation; a phenomena that is well-known for the Northern Hemisphere, but has hitherto been difficult to study in the Antarctic. It is leading us towards an ability to better study the synchronicity of climate fluctuations between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, which is vital in our understanding of past climate change. Measurements of other gases have shown that the great majority of halogenated climate-warming and ozone-depleting gases in the present-day atmosphere are exclusively of human origin, but a few of them also have a small natural background.

In the course of FAASIS, seven early stage researchers have been trained to PhD level during three-year intensive research and training periods. These individuals are currently at different stages of their PhD submission phase. Some have submitted and / or been examined, and subsequently moved on to further research or professional careers in related areas. Others are still in the process of finishing their theses. We expect all of them to make substantive contributions to research, academic, and professional leadership in Europe and beyond during the next several years.

Reported by

University of East Anglia
University Plain
NR4 7TJ Norwich
United Kingdom
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