Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Algorithm finds missing phytoplankton in Southern Ocean

Date:
September 18, 2013
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
NASA satellites may have missed more than 50 percent of the phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean. But now, new research has led to the development of an algorithm that produces substantially more accurate estimates of Southern Ocean phytoplankton populations.

Concentration of phytoplankton observed by satellites in the Southern Ocean over the summer months.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of New South Wales

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.

Related Articles


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 algorithm that produces substantially more accurate estimates of Southern Ocean phytoplankton 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 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 marine food chain, 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.

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 satellite measurements.

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 observational data 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).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Robert Johnson, Peter G. Strutton, Simon W. Wright, Andrew McMinn, Klaus M. Meiners. Three improved satellite chlorophyll algorithms for the Southern Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 2013; 118 (7): 3694 DOI: 10.1002/jgrc.20270

Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "Algorithm finds missing phytoplankton in Southern Ocean." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918102004.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2013, September 18). Algorithm finds missing phytoplankton in Southern Ocean. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918102004.htm
University of New South Wales. "Algorithm finds missing phytoplankton in Southern Ocean." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130918102004.htm (accessed March 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

At Least Four Dead After Floods in Northern Chile

At Least Four Dead After Floods in Northern Chile

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 26, 2015) — At least four people have been killed by severe flooding in northern Chile after rains battered the Andes mountains and swept into communities below. Rob Muir reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oklahomans "devastated" By Tornado Damage

Oklahomans "devastated" By Tornado Damage

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 26, 2015) — Buildings and homes lay in ruins and a semi-truck gets flipped following a fierce tornado that left at least one person dead. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tornado Tears Through Oklahoma Town

Tornado Tears Through Oklahoma Town

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 26, 2015) — Aerial video shows the moment a tornado ripped across the town of Moore, Oklahoma, sending sparks flying. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brazilian Bus Falls Through Hole

Brazilian Bus Falls Through Hole

Reuters - News Video Online (Mar. 25, 2015) — A bus falls through a massive hole in a Brazilian highway and is swept away by rushing flood water. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins