Day 16: Half-way through and the weather turns

Today's blog is written by the Principal Scientific Officer, Murray, as the weather gives him time to pause.....Today the Atlantic Ocean is roused with winds gusting to Storm Force 8 and a rolling swell of between 4 and 6 m. It’s too rough to put any equipment into the sea so for the moment no more ROV dives are possible and we are running acoustic surveys of the seabed that will help us understand how coral carbonate mounds are formed.
Given the weather, and since we have passed the half-way point of the 2012 Changing Oceans Expedition, it’s a good moment to think about what we’ve achieved and why we’ve all gone to sea for a month.

The evidence that global climate is changing is overwhelming and the vast majority of scientific opinion supports the view that these changes can be traced back to the release of greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution. Among these gases carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels is the most significant contributor to global warming. Something approaching a third of the CO2 released by human society has dissolved in the oceans causing ocean acidification at a rate faster than any seen in geological history.

The Earth’s rapidly changing climate sets the stage for our research on the Changing Oceans Expedition. As this blog shows, the research teams on board are all busy tackling the often daunting task of trying to assess how complex biological systems will respond to ocean acidification.

Perhaps the greatest feature of spending a month together at sea is the chance to work in teams tackling different aspects of the same problem. Already we’re seeing new lines of research spring up between people on board and entirely new studies and measurements are being carried out – some developed from ideas and discussions since we set sail.

Making Crowns
Ecology isn’t a neat and tidy subject and understanding what controls and modulates ecosystems is a huge challenge. The Changing Oceans Expedition is one of the most ambitious attempts yet to understand the functional ecology of cold-water coral systems. Without this understanding we cannot predict how these ecosystems will respond to global climate change. In essence this is the thread that links all the different teams and research projects on board.

As I write this our ship-board experiments continue despite the weather, the occasional roll of the ship and the home-made crowns many of the researchers on board are wearing today to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

More about our Jubilee celebrations tomorrow…