Algorithm finds missing phytoplankton in Southern Ocean

Sep 18, 2013
This still image is showing the concentrations of phytoplankton observed by satellites in the Southern Ocean. Credit: Robert Johnson

NASA satellites may have missed more than 50% of the phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean, making it far more difficult to estimate the carbon capture potential of this vast area of sea.

But now, new research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Three improved satellite chlorophyll algorithms for the Southern Ocean, has led to the development of an that produces substantially more accurate estimates of Southern Ocean populations.

That research from the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) was led by PhD student Rob Johnson and Associate Prof Peter Strutton

"This new algorithm allows us to detect changes in plankton numbers that have previously gone unnoticed," said Mr Johnson.

"This better understanding of the phytoplankton population will, in turn, allow us to gain a much more accurate idea of how much carbon this ocean can take up."

The importance of phytoplankton and their role in our planetary ecosystem cannot be underestimated. They form the base of the , produce half the oxygen on Earth and are partly responsible for the ocean uptake of at least a third of total human induced CO2 emissions.

So it was important to understand why existing ocean colour satellites systematically underestimated the chlorophyll concentration (a proxy for phytoplankton biomass) of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This video shows the concentration of phytoplankton observed by satellites in the Southern Ocean over the summer months. Credit: Robert Johnson

To get the observations needed to make valid comparisons and develop the algorithm, the researchers used more than 1000 Southern Ocean phytoplankton samples collected over 10 years and compared these to .

The majority of the samples used in this study were collected by the French Antarctic vessel MV L'Astrolabe through a collaborative and long-term monitoring program between the CSIRO, the Australian Antarctic program, and the French Antarctic Program.

Once this was collected, the new algorithm was used to process satellite data and make comparisons. It quickly became clear that the algorithm produced a much closer estimate of phytoplankton numbers than past satellite measurements.

"Our improved satellite chlorophyll algorithms will be used to produce higher-accuracy observations on the vitally important phytoplankton of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica," said Assoc Prof Peter Strutton.

"This will go a long way towards improving our understanding of how the Southern Ocean works and how the movement of carbon is changing in these remote waters."

The improved data will also be made freely available to the global research community through the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).

Explore further: Coastal Antarctic study identifies large acidic change

More information: DOI: 10.1002/jgrc.20270

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ubavontuba
1.8 / 5 (16) Sep 18, 2013
"This better understanding of the phytoplankton population will, in turn, allow us to gain a much more accurate idea of how much carbon this ocean can take up."
...because CO2 is plant food. And...

The importance of phytoplankton and their role in our planetary ecosystem cannot be underestimated. They form the base of the marine food chain (and) produce half the oxygen on Earth
Ergo CO2 is good for the entire ecosystem.

RealityCheck
1.9 / 5 (14) Sep 18, 2013
Hi uba!
...because CO2 is plant food. And...
Ergo CO2 is good for the entire ecosystem.
BUT...meanwhile, the additional heat energy creates unsettle and extreme climate events that destroy seasonal patterns on which our agriculture flowering, maturing, harvesting cycles depend. Then there is the infrastructure destruction and land/air transportation chaos. Then the diseases and pests increasing their range. Ocean increasing Carbonic acid content; and warmer waters releasing more methane/CO2. Floods and wildfires increase in scope/severity/frequency. You get the drift?

The cost/havoc to humanity and established ecosystems far outweighs the benefits on any level, as the costs and human sufferings and ecosystem destruction of more natural disasters as the heat energy input grows will surely tell you even now, so early/beginnings in the warming trend.

Reading bias is leading you to make logical faux pas in this (as in the Antarctic Winds and Sea Ice "Increase" thread). :)
Gmr
3.6 / 5 (9) Sep 18, 2013
Increase in CO2 plus increase in temperature. Enzymes have ranges of efficiency - if the range of temperature falls outside its range of efficiency, it can cease to function or denature. Ergo extra heat is not a net gain, especially when the rate of heat gain exceeds the mutation/adaptation rate of an organism or organisms.
NikFromNYC
1.6 / 5 (14) Sep 18, 2013
Neurosis, we get it! We know you can create disaster out of good news by focusing on little details and creating great theoretical emergencies that run counter to the massive boost in vitality afforded by releasing carbon and nitrogen back into the biosphere from where it has been sadly buried, deep down.

Alarm would be a useful counterpoint if climate science had not deformed into Climatology where even the most brazen hoaxes stand unretracted in top journals (Marcott 2013!). This state of affairs degrades science in general, each year worse than the last as so few "scientists" deflect their own best journals away from this mess, and so become a shameful and blame worthy part of the problem and the growing backlash to it. Chemists and physicists who now stand silent will be forever recorded as being complicit in the most degrading episode of decadent corruption in human history. Instead of flying cars you offer us insanity? Gee, thanks, "scientists." Next stop for enablers: BACKLASH.
ubavontuba
1.3 / 5 (13) Sep 18, 2013
Hi RealityCheck,

BUT...meanwhile, the additional heat energy creates unsettle and extreme climate events that destroy seasonal patterns on which our agriculture flowering, maturing, harvesting cycles depend. Then there is the infrastructure destruction and land/air transportation chaos. Then the diseases and pests increasing their range. Ocean increasing Carbonic acid content; and warmer waters releasing more methane/CO2. Floods and wildfires increase in scope/severity/frequency. You get the drift?

The cost/havoc to humanity and established ecosystems far outweighs the benefits on any level, as the costs and human sufferings and ecosystem destruction of more natural disasters as the heat energy input grows will surely tell you even now, so early/beginnings in the warming trend.
What costs?

So far, the greatest costs appear to have come from the AGW cap-and-trade schemes and various green energy and tax schemes.

triplehelix
1.4 / 5 (10) Sep 19, 2013
I thought satellite data was supposed to be this absolutely definitive technology that is so precise and accurate that we can use satellite data to predict and answer most questions about Earth.

Yet we miss literally thousands of tons of biological material using them.

The real questions now are

1.What have they missed and we still don't know about, and
2.What have they found that may not be completely accurate. A false positive if you will.
RealityCheck
1.4 / 5 (10) Sep 21, 2013
BUT...meanwhile, the additional heat energy creates unsettle and extreme climate events that destroy seasonal patterns on which our agriculture flowering, maturing, harvesting cycles depend. Then there is the infrastructure destruction and land/air transportation chaos. Then the diseases and pests increasing their range. Ocean increasing Carbonic acid content; and warmer waters releasing more methane/CO2. Floods and wildfires increase in scope/severity/frequency. You get the drift?

The cost/havoc to humanity and established ecosystems far outweighs the benefits on any level, as the costs and human sufferings and ecosystem destruction of more natural disasters as the heat energy input grows...
What costs? So far, the greatest costs appear to have come from the AGW cap-and-trade schemes and various green energy and tax schemes.
Cap-&-trade costs are dwarfed by costs of even ONE extreme hurricane. Read my post to see both absolute costs and opportunity costs involved, uba:)
ubavontuba
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 22, 2013
Cap-&-trade costs are dwarfed by costs of even ONE extreme hurricane. Read my post to see both absolute costs and opportunity costs involved, uba:)
What's that got to do with anything? Are you suggesting hurricanes are caused by AGW? Where's your evidence?

RealityCheck
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 22, 2013
Cap-&-trade costs are dwarfed by costs of even ONE extreme hurricane. Read my post to see both absolute costs and opportunity costs involved, uba:)
What's that got to do with anything? Are you suggesting hurricanes are caused by AGW? Where's your evidence?

First you ask "What costs?", and now you ask "Are you suggesting hurricanes are caused by AGW?" There is a pattern of disingenuousness developing in your discourse, uba! Cut it out mate, it's not working for you. :)

So, you now understand all the absolute and opportunity costs involved in natural disasters made more extreme and frequent and out-of-season etc?

No, uba, the hurricane and all cyclonic dynamics are due to pressure-temperature gradients/differentials etc in the system. Didn't you know that? They are made worse and more frequent if the overall heat energy gradients/pressure exacerbations by AGW affects the already existing patterns to make them more unpredictable/extreme/frequent etc. :)
ubavontuba
1 / 5 (8) Sep 22, 2013
First you ask "What costs?", and now you ask "Are you suggesting hurricanes are caused by AGW?" There is a pattern of disingenuousness developing in your discourse, uba! Cut it out mate, it's not working for you. :)
You're the one being disingenuous, by claiming a cost but getting angry when I ask for evidence of this cost.

So, you now understand all the absolute and opportunity costs involved in natural disasters made more extreme and frequent and out-of-season etc?
No.

No, uba, the hurricane and all cyclonic dynamics are due to pressure-temperature gradients/differentials etc in the system. Didn't you know that? They are made worse and more frequent if the overall heat energy gradients/pressure exacerbations by AGW affects the already existing patterns to make them more unpredictable/extreme/frequent etc. :)
Pie in the sky and hand-waving nonsense. Where's your evidence?

Don't make claims you are unwilling to, or cannot, support.

RealityCheck
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 23, 2013
First you ask "What costs?", and now you ask "Are you suggesting hurricanes are caused by AGW?" There is a pattern of disingenuousness developing in your discourse, uba! Cut it out mate, it's not working for you. :)
You're the one being disingenuous, by claiming a cost but getting angry when I ask for evidence of this cost.
So, you now understand all the absolute and opportunity costs involved in natural disasters made more extreme and frequent and out-of-season etc?
No.
No, uba, the hurricane and all cyclonic dynamics are due to pressure-temperature gradients/differentials etc in the system. Didn't you know that? They are made worse and more frequent if the overall heat energy gradients/pressure exacerbations by AGW affects the already existing patterns to make them more unpredictable/extreme/frequent etc. :)
Pie in the sky and hand-waving nonsense. Where's your evidence?

Don't make claims you are unwilling to, or cannot, support.
Nuff said, uba:)
ubavontuba
1.4 / 5 (9) Sep 23, 2013
Nuff said, uba:)
It's just sad that you think so.

RealityCheck
1.4 / 5 (10) Sep 23, 2013
Nuff said, uba:)
It's just sad that you think so.
You are being disingenuous, uba. How can I have a serious conversation with someone who, after reading my earlier post outlining the very absolute and opportunity costs involved, then says he doesn't understand what these costs are or where these costs come into it? I have better things to do with my time than to humor disingenuous people/tactics like that, mate. Good luck, uba. :)
ubavontuba
1.5 / 5 (8) Sep 23, 2013
Nuff said, uba:)
It's just sad that you think so.
You are being disingenuous, uba. How can I have a serious conversation with someone who, after reading my earlier post outlining the very absolute and opportunity costs involved, then says he doesn't understand what these costs are or where these costs come into it? I have better things to do with my time than to humor disingenuous people/tactics like that, mate. Good luck, uba. :)
This is just more blather to cover your incompetence.

RealityCheck
1.4 / 5 (10) Sep 23, 2013
Nuff said, uba:)
It's just sad that you think so.
You are being disingenuous, uba. How can I have a serious conversation with someone who, after reading my earlier post outlining the very absolute and opportunity costs involved, then says he doesn't understand what these costs are or where these costs come into it? I have better things to do with my time than to humor disingenuous people/tactics like that, mate. Good luck, uba. :)
This is just more blather to cover your incompetence.

Sure, uba. :)