Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Annex 2


Atlantic Meridional Transect (AMT) Consortium (2002-06)

  A consortium designed to analyse annual and longer-term variability in ocean ecology and biogeochemistry (especially linked to plankton populations and the turnover of organic matter) in the context of climate change.


Ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at the Sub-Polar Front and Charlie Gibbs Fracture Zone

  A project investigating how physical and biogeochemical factors, including topography, currents and organic input, influence the distributions and structure of deep-sea communities, focusing on the fauna of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (MAR).


"Next Generation" Unstructured-mesh Ocean Global Circulation Modelling

  A project to build a next-generation ocean global circulation model that has more detailed resolution than existing models. It will be capable, among other things, of resolving flows simultaneously on global, basin, regional, and process scales, and will have a wide range of applications in oceanography, climate change, flood defence, pollution and contaminant dispersal, the analysis of water quality and the sustainability of fisheries.


Transport and storage of nutrients, carbon and heat in the subtropical North Atlantic ocean

  This interdisciplinary consortium is addressing how the climate system is controlled in the subtropical North Atlantic Ocean by looking at the transport of heat, nutrients and carbon. The survey will complement RAPID- and AMT-supported surveys, and the three datasets will be analysed together. The controlling processes will be identified by taking targeted biogeochemical observations and their wider impact assessed by integrating circulation and biogeochemical models.

Chemosynthetically-driven ecosystems south of the Polar Front: biogeography and ecology (2008-12)

  The consortium will study four contrasting chemosynthetic ecosystems in Antarctica south of the Polar Front. Analysis will compare the hydrothermal and seep chemistry of the four sites, determine the phylogeography of species, and examine the food web processes. The study will determine whether colonisation of vents and seeps, in these most isolated of chemosynthetically-driven ecosystems, is driven by oceanographic or tectonic processes or whether any site is, instead, host to completely isolated evolution.

Subduction zone segmentation and controls on earthquake rupture: The 2004 and 2005 Sumatra earthquakes (2006-11)

  The Sumatran earthquake of December 2004 was the second-largest earthquake on record. The growing populations in regions prone to great earthquakes make it a matter of urgency to study the processes that control them. The Sumatran earthquake is the first to which modern geophysical tools can be applied, so offers a unique opportunity for such study. The consortium will examine the influence of plate boundaries (which divide tectonic plates into segments) on the spread of earthquakes, asking what determines whether an earthquake stays within one segment of plate boundary (and remains relatively small), or jumps across barriers between segments (to become a large earthquake).

DIMES: Diapycnal and Isopycnal Mixing Experiment in the Southern Ocean (2008-12)

  One of the most important elements of ocean circulation is what scientists know as the "meridional overturning circulation" (MOC). This term describes the cooling and resulting sinking of surface water masses in high-latitude regions, their journey through the deep ocean and their eventual warming and return to the surface, after many decades or centuries. The MOC is important to climate because the water masses involved in this long circuit through the ocean carry with them heat, CO2 and other significant substances such as plant nutrients, which in this way are distributed around the planet and locked away in the deep ocean for long periods of time.

  Perhaps the stage of the MOC that puzzles scientists the most, and one of the most serious challenges to the reliability of climate simulations, is the return of deep water masses to the surface. To achieve a breakthrough in this problem, the consortium will directly measure mixing processes in the Southern Ocean and their effect on ocean circulation. These measurements, together with others, will help to answer several key questions.

Dynamics of gas hydrates in polar marine environments (2007-09)

  Almost half of the Earth's carbon is stored in gas hydrates and related shallow gas deposits. Numerical models predict that this reservoir is highly mobile and that escaping gas has a significant potential to accelerate climate change by releasing as much as 2000 Gt of methane over a short period of time. As methane is a potent greenhouse gas it would cause further global warming. Arctic gas hydrates are particularly vulnerable to future climate change. The consortium aims to quantify the present amount of gas hydrates through seismic methods, to measure current methane flux from the seabed to the atmosphere, to detect the effects of postglacial warming on the gas hydrate system, and to predict the effect of a range of future temperature changes on the gas hydrates. This information will allow a detailed assessment of the mobility of Arctic gas hydrates and significantly decrease the uncertainties involved in climate modelling.

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