The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $2.8 million to the University of California San Diego to construct a replica ocean-atmosphere system on the Scripps Institution of Oceanography campus.
The new Scripps Ocean Atmosphere Research Simulator (SOARS) will mimic the ocean with unprecedented accuracy, capturing the interactions of wind, waves, microbial marine life, and chemistry at the sea surface in a laboratory setting. With SOARS, scientists will also explore how the introduction of pollutants by human activities are changing the chemistry of the ocean and atmosphere which could impact one way nature regulates climate.
Scientists will be able to generate winds up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) per hour, control air and water temperature to replicate tropical to polar conditions, and induce phytoplankton blooms of a wide array of species, while adding inputs such as air pollutants including greenhouse gases for studies of potential climate change effects in current and future oceans and atmospheres.
“It is the only instrument in the world capable of studying the current and future ocean/atmosphere system and a testament to 21st century science,” said project principal investigator Grant Deane, a Scripps research oceanographer. “We are building the tools we need to understand our changing planet and educate the next generation of scientists and engineers in whole earth science.”
The science team behind SOARS includes an atmospheric chemist, a microbiologist, and three physical oceanographers. The experiments planned for the facility are similarly broad and interdisciplinary.
“Research at this new facility will lead to an understanding of how pollutants and higher carbon dioxide levels affect marine animals and plants, cloud formation, and, ultimately, us,” said Rick Murray, director of the NSF’s Division of Ocean Sciences, which awarded the grant. “Through these studies, scientists will simulate how ocean ecosystems from the…