Sea change for USQ climatologist

All aboard! A USQ climatologist is about to get an up-close look at the North Atlantic Ocean.

Professor Joachim Ribbe, from USQ’s School of Agricultural, Computational and Environmental Sciences, will join a five-week international research expedition to explore how global ocean currents impact the world’s weather.

The German research vessel, Maria S. Merian, will depart St John's, Canada on May 24, track along the Labrador Sea toward Greenland, then continue across the Denmark Strait toward Iceland.

The survey is run by the Excellence Cluster The Future Ocean based at Germany’s University of Kiel, and contributes to the Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic Program (OSNAP), a multi-institutional collaboration with experts from around the world.

Using a system of ocean-wide sensor arrays, OSNAP has been studying the 'engine' that drives the global oceanic circulation, monitoring the ocean's movements across the Arctic and North Atlantic Ocean.

The program’s results will help create better models used in climate projections.

“Variations in the world’s climate, weather and seasonal patterns are forced by the longer term changes that occur in the ocean and its overall circulation,” Professor Ribbe said.

“Our sensors observe properties of the ocean, including the transport and storage of heat, as well as greenhouse gases, and how these factors control climate around the world.

“For example, a well-known driver of Australia's weather and climate variability is the El Nino Southern Oscillation – a system which also depends on the climatic state of the ocean that is driven by the northern hemisphere's North Atlantic.”

While aboard the Maria S. Merian, Professor Ribbe and other scientists will take shifts in monitoring results from deep-water probes that collect samples from the surface to the ocean floor, some 4000 metres below.

“These measurements and samples will give us data on ocean current strength, temperature, salinity and chemical composition of sea water,” he said.

Professor Ribbe joined the project thanks to a fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service. It stems from his ongoing collaborations with German researchers in the oceanography field.

“A few years ago I spent some time with the Excellence Cluster The Future Ocean. The collaboration has evolved ever since, resulting in student exchanges, joint publications and conference contributions,” Professor Ribbe said.

Ship on water, buildings in background
Image credit – VollwertBIT [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons