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Researchers develop ocean ‘thermometer’
Antarctic ice revealing the myriad enclosed tiny bubbles of air. Air bubbles trapped in ice are providing vital information about past levels of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. © CSIRO CC BY 3.0

Researchers develop ocean ‘thermometer’

04/01/18Environment

With the average temperature of the ocean difficult to measure, a team of researchers have developed a method which allows conclusions to be drawn of the changes in sea temperature.

The team of researchers, alongside the participation of the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) has developed the method using noble gases in perpetual ice, allowing conclusions to be drawn on the changes in sea temperature from the last Ice Age.

The oceans are the largest reservoirs for global heat storage. However, climate change has caused temperatures in the climate system to rise. Around 90% of the extra heat is absorbed by the world’s oceans.

This means that the average temperature of the sea can tell us something about the state of our climate, both today and in the past – although, it can be difficult to get an accurate average across all ocean depths and world regions.

The work, part of the “WAIS Divide Ice Core Project”, an international research team led by Bernhard Bereiter of the “Scripps Institution of Oceanography” – now working at Empa and at the University of Bern, Switzerland, is based on ice cores from the Arctic.

The layers of eternal ice form an archive of the atmosphere where both dust particles, solids and air are trapped. In these bubbles it is possible to define the concentration of various gases.

Greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide are found alongside the noble gases krypton, xenon and argon. The concentration of the noble gases in the atmosphere reveals information on the average global temperature of the sea.

The report is published in the current issue of Nature.

Pan European Networks Ltd