We know the Southern Ocean plays a big role in our climate, but there’s much to learn about how and where clouds form over the sea, how they influence global temperatures, and how the wind affects cloud formation and how much carbon dioxide our oceans can absorb.
Now a 60m ‘wave pool in a wind tunnel’ built by Associate Professor Jason Monty is allowing researchers from The University of Melbourne, Swinburne, and Monash University to find out.
“We know that small eddies at the surface of the ocean affect how evaporation occurs and gasses are exchanged, but this turbulence is not included in climate models, as no one has been able to measure it,” Jason says.
The new facility will give climate researchers some real data for their models—showing in detail how gasses, water vapour, and aerosols transfer between the water and the air.
Using lasers and high speed cameras researchers can track the movement of thousands of microbeads in the water and micro droplets in the air, building a detailed picture of how turbulence in the air and water affects gas exchange between them.
They can also generate spray, bubbles, winds up to 100km per hour and waves up to half a metre in height.
“Ideally we’d collect the data for these models from the oceans, but this is not realistic or practical,” Jason says.
“The sizes of the waves in the Southern Ocean alone make taking the kind of detailed measurements we need impossible to do there.”
For more information:
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Melbourne
Dr Jason Monty
+61 3 8344 3040
Banner image credit: Joe Vittorio