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Netherlands Polar Data Center

Project - The role of sea ice in antarctic sulfur and carbon cycles

Summary

The West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) is among the most rapidly warming areas on Earth: since 1951 mean winter temperature has increased by as much as 6°C. Coinciding with the warming of shelf water, the amount of sea ice that is formed over winter is declining. In January 2013 the Dutch Science Facility at Rothera opened and the first-ever time series of the climate active gas dimethyl sulphide (DMS) and related compounds at the Rothera Time Series Station (RaTS) was initiated. During the first year, we observed that the period of sea-ice melt was the most intense period of DMS production, with values an order of magnitude higher than in the most productive open-ocean areas. We hypothesise that the sea ice itself is the major source of DMS and that it is also a major source for organic material to be transported to the deep sea. Both processes have a climate cooling effect. Hence, the disappearance of sea ice may have an important positive feedback on climate. In the current proposal we therefore propose to do an in-depth study of the carbon and sulphur cycles in the sea ice-ocean system. Using a suite of stable isotopes we will investigate: the flux of sea-ice organic carbon and sulfur to the surface ocean during ice melt and the conversion processes of organic carbon and sulphur in sea ice and water. Data will be used in models to investigate how sea ice contributes to and feeds back on global climate.

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