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Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries

Taking the temperature of the world’s oceans Revolutionising global monitoring and forecasting Engineering the climate? Influencing government policy on future technologies Nuclear decommissioning Innovations to meet industry needs Protecting our underwater heritage Powering responsible growth

2013


In this issue Welcome to Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries, the University of Southampton’s research magazine that covers the breadth of our research in Ocean and Earth Science. In this issue, you will discover how our research is helping to meet the needs of industry, influencing policy and changing practice internationally.

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Our groundbreaking research on sea-surface temperature is leading the way to improved monitoring and forecasting methods, which are crucial for modelling future climate change and predicting the weather across the globe. Find out more on page four. As well as monitoring climate change, we are influencing government policy around the world on how to mitigate its most serious effects by assessing the impacts and effectiveness of possible deliberate, large-scale modifications of the Earth’s climate system. Professor John Shepherd, who is at the forefront of assessing new geoengineering technologies, gives an insight on page 10. Through our world-leading facilities and expertise, we are helping the nuclear industry to safely decommission power plants that have reached the end of their lives, which is a key challenge globally. Our researchers have developed a device for extracting radioactive tritium and carbon-14 that is six times more efficient than those previously available. Find out more on page 12. Harnessing the ocean’s power to create renewable energy is of growing importance to the world’s ever-increasing energy needs. Dr Justin Dix’s research is helping to ensure that these developments are carried out responsibly so that our underwater heritage is protected. Find out more on page 16. For more information, visit www.southampton.ac.uk/oes

Please send us your feedback We are keen to receive any feedback you have about Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries. If you have any comments or suggestions, please do send them to oceanearthresearch@southampton.ac.uk

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1 Taking the temperature of the world’s oceans Revolutionising global monitoring and forecasting.

Page 4 2 Engineering the climate? Influencing government policy on future technologies.

Page 10 3 Meeting nuclear decommissioning needs

Innovations to meet industry needs.

Page 12 4 Protecting our underwater heritage Powering responsible growth.

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More highlights Discovering new species Our marine biologists identified at least nine new species of deep-sea organism thriving on a whale skeleton in the Antarctic.

Page 18 Recent publications Journal papers highlighting the impact of our Ocean and Earth Science research.

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Professor Ian Robinson and his team’s work has enabled researchers across the world to measure sea-surface temperature Image courtesy of Sue Ann Watson

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Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton


“The only way to measure SST globally is with satellites like the ATSR that detect infrared radiation from the surface of the ocean. These readings are used as a measure of SST of the ocean ‘skin’ – the top millimetre of the water.” Ian Robinson, Professorial Research Fellow

Taking the temperature of the world’s oceans The ability to measure sea-surface temperature (SST) accurately is important for weather prediction and crucial for monitoring longterm climate change. Southampton researchers have revolutionised the way in which SST data are processed, opening up possibilities to create more detailed temperature maps for forecasting.

Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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“We are also looking at ways of adapting ISAR to measure the air temperature and concentration of carbon dioxide at the sea surface to better understand their influence on ocean temperature in climate change, which will be an exciting development.� Ian Robinson, Professorial Research Fellow

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Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton


Detailed SST measurements are used for all aspects of forecasting the weather, from measuring small long-term temperature changes for climate modelling to assessing large changes such as El Niño, as well as regular weather and shipping forecasts. Satellites, which measure infrared radiation from the seas, give measurements of SST that span the globe in great detail, but to check that the data from satellites is reliable researchers need to compare the readings with those taken in the sea. This has posed a major challenge to the international research community. Professor Ian Robinson and his team at the University of Southampton have made this possible and have brought researchers from around the world together to use SST data more effectively. Ian’s interest in SST started in the early 1990s, when he was part of the science advisory committee for the UK-designed temperature sensor, the Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR), flown on the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth remote sensing satellites. “The only way to measure SST globally is with satellites like the ATSR that detect infrared radiation from the surface of the ocean,” says Ian, a Professorial Research Fellow at the University. “These readings are used as a measure of SST of the ocean ‘skin’ – the top millimetre of the water.” To ensure accuracy, a satellite’s measurements must be validated against readings taken in the ocean – for example using thermometers on buoys, which measure the temperature a few metres below the surface. However, the temperature difference between the ocean surface and a few metres below can reach as much as five degrees, and with this level of uncertainty it is difficult to confirm the accuracy of satellite data for the precise task of monitoring the climate.

Professor Ian Robinson’s team produced the first infrared SST autonomous radiometer (ISAR), which measures the ocean skin temperature in situ on commercial ships travelling along scientifically important routes

“This meant that the temperature data from the ATSR – which was of the highest quality available – was at first largely ignored by the scientific community because the data couldn’t be reliably validated, and we realised this needed to change,” says Ian.

A meeting of minds In the intervening years, Ian’s research team has answered several enduring questions around the temperature differences in the top layer of the ocean. For example, they demonstrated that the temperature of the ocean skin changes throughout the day: on a sunny afternoon with no wind, the top layer warms up because the heat is not mixed downwards but if there is wind or cloud, everything changes. “We realised that to validate the satellite data we also needed to know the wind activity and cloud distribution,” says Ian. “We also saw that people across the world were using different types of measurements – satellites measuring infrared, others measuring microwaves, thermometers in the ocean and so on – and these needed to be brought together and put into a single framework,” he adds. Ian was heavily involved when, in 2002, his former Southampton PhD student, Dr Craig Donlon, convened the Group for High Resolution Sea Surface Temperature (GHRSST), which brought together research organisations from around the world with an interest in SST. The aim was to combine information from diverse satellite sensors to create more accurate SST maps that everyone could use. “This was a meeting of minds,” says Ian. “Finally the scientists were talking to those who produce data and those who use it – and that was a big step forward.” He explains that the principle of GHRSST was to treat every measurement with integrity; the researchers pooled their data from different sources, put it into a consistent format and considered the strengths and weaknesses of all the different types of information. They also gathered additional data from other sources so that for every temperature measurement they could determine the wind speed and solar radiation. Craig, who is now Principal Scientist for Oceans and Ice at ESA, says: “The scientific and political challenges of obtaining a consensus view across different agencies and research teams were overcome through detailed scientific discussion and international collaboration. }

Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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Image based on the OSTIA SST Analysis produced daily by UK Met Office

“Our work was put into practice in operational forecasting sooner than we expected, when, in 2007, the ice cap melted more than usual and suddenly the UK Met Office forecasts went haywire”

The efforts of GHRSST have allowed all those involved, including myself, to fully realise their scientific potential.”

Ian Robinson, Professorial Research Fellow

“Our work was put into practice in operational forecasting sooner than we expected, when, in 2007, the ice cap melted more than usual and suddenly the UK Met Office forecasts went haywire,” says Ian. The Met Office put the team’s data product into their forecasting system and it solved the problem. “Looking back this was really exciting and a great achievement,” Ian adds.

Using the research findings, Ian and his team started up a prototype SST data-producing service to give forecasting agencies across Europe access to highly accurate data from the satellites in a form that they could use.

Improved measurements At the same time as working on the GHRSST project, Ian’s team was producing the first infrared SST autonomous radiometer (ISAR). These could be used to measure the

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Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton


ocean skin temperature in situ on ‘ships of opportunity’ (commercial ships that travel along scientifically important routes) for up to three months without needing anyone to operate them manually. Craig, who designed ISAR during the years following his PhD when he had been dissatisfied with the performance of the early radiometers available at the time, says: “The ISAR instrument and the fantastic work at Southampton over the past decade have changed the way we establish and monitor the performance of SST measurements from space.” “It will be essential for validating the next iteration of the ATSR, the Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR), which is a core aspect of my role as ESA Mission Scientist for the Sentinel-3 satellite, due to launch next year,” Craig adds. Through rigorous testing of ISAR, Craig showed that it was possible to

directly validate the satellite data using ship radiometers that measured the ocean skin temperature to accuracies of better than 0.1K. This meant that the high-quality information from temperature sensors like the ATSR could now be used universally.

setting up a network for users of ship-borne radiometers to promote collaboration that ensures uniform high-quality measurements extending across the world’s oceans.

Although his team has achieved a great deal over the past 20 years, Ian explains there is a lot more to be done. “We are trying to push Dr Werenfrid Wimmer, who has worked the accuracy of SST even further and we as the ISAR Instrument Scientist for the are going to be involved in the validation of past eight years, adds: “Working with ISAR the SLSTR, the new sensor to be launched has been an interesting and rewarding next year by ESA to take the place of the experience. For the future, we hope to ATSR series,” says Ian. “We are also looking continue our funding in this area so that we at ways of adapting ISAR to measure the can demonstrate the SLSTR sensor on the air temperature and concentration of Sentinel-3 satellite is at least as good as the carbon dioxide at the sea surface to better ATSR has been.” understand their influence on ocean Built at the University of Southampton, ISARs temperature in climate change, which are now being used across the world – by the will be an exciting development.” British Navy and ocean and meteorological To find out more, visit institutes in the USA, Japan, China, France www.southampton.ac.uk/ and Denmark, with plans underway for one takingtheworldstemperature to be used in Australia in the near future. The Southampton research team is currently

Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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Engineering the climate? Climate change is one of the major challenges facing humanity today; as carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions continue to increase we could be faced with extreme weather and rapid sea-level rise in the future. One possible way of mitigating the worst effects might be to deliberately make large-scale changes to the Earth’s climate system to remove CO2 or reflect sunlight. Professor John Shepherd, Professorial Research Fellow in Earth System Science, is at the forefront of assessing the potential of these new geoengineering technologies.

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Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton


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How is your research making an impact on how well we understand our climate?

One thing we have learned is that some of the CO2 we have emitted is going to stay in the atmosphere for a very long time indeed: many thousands of years. There are natural geochemical processes like rock weathering that will remove it eventually, but they only operate very slowly. That means that even if and when we succeed in reducing CO2 emissions to zero, we shall be left with a legacy of man-made climate change that will last for several millennia at least. That’s actually what got me started thinking about geoengineering, which means largescale engineering activities to alter the climate deliberately rather than accidentally. If we fail to reduce CO2 emissions enough, could we find a way to remove it from the atmosphere and bring CO2 levels back down again? The answer to that turns out to be ‘maybe’, and it’s not likely to be cheap.

changes have taken place over long periods of time – thousands and millions of years – most recently, for example, the amazing cycles of ice ages and warm periods over the last few million years. That means that we can’t just use the usual big climate models because they are too complicated and too slow to run for more than a few centuries. We have to build less detailed models that approximate some fast processes, but include slow ones like the response of the deep oceans and ice sheets. We still don’t fully understand the processes that drive those glacial cycles; they certainly involve greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, but we don’t yet understand the details.

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How is your work influencing government policy on geoengineering?

It has the potential to be extremely important in the medium and longer term. I’m afraid that action to reduce emissions is already too little, and too late. Whether we shall run into some sort of climate emergency during this century, and need to consider the faster acting (and more risky) solar reflection methods – such as spraying seawater into the atmosphere to increase the reflectiveness of clouds – is very hard to say. In the long run I think it’s likely that we shall need to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels again, and for that we are definitely going to need CO2 removal technologies such as capturing CO2 from the air and storing it deep underground.

I initiated and chaired the Royal Society’s study on the subject; the resulting report was published in 2009, and has proved to be very influential both in the UK and abroad. I was asked to give evidence on geoengineering to a US Congressional Committee hearing, for example. The report was cited repeatedly by the House of Commons Select Committee’s report on the topic, and one senior official has told me that it is mentioned at every meeting in Whitehall that they have attended on geoengineering. The research councils have funded two modest research projects so far, but that expenditure is only a tiny fraction of what my group recommended, so there is still a very long way to go. However, I think it would be fair to say that we have got the subject on the government’s radar now. I also now chair the Scientific Advisory Group for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and I hope that this has some influence on policy.

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How important is geoengineering for the planet?

What does your current research involve?

My research involves building and using computer models of the Earth’s climate system, to try to improve our understanding of natural and man-made climate change. Most of the interesting natural climate

What are the benefits of doing this type of research at Southampton?

Southampton is one of the few universities that is well set up to do Earth system science, where one tries to consider all the relevant components of the climate system (oceans,

atmosphere, biosphere and cryosphere) together. Here in Ocean and Earth Science at Southampton we have people who are active and knowledgeable in all those fields, and the National Oceanography Centre Southampton provides a unique environment in which they can all work together. The issue of geoengineering the climate really needs a long-term and holistic approach, and having oceanographers and geologists working together facilitates that.

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How important is multidisciplinary working to your research?

Multidisciplinary work is absolutely essential for this sort of problem. We not only need to consider all those different components of the Earth system, but we need to study the physics, chemistry, biology and geology of them all, and put it all together using mathematical models. So you need people who are very broad minded, and willing to step outside their disciplinary comfort zones. I think that’s fascinating and stimulating, but it isn’t easy.

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What have your biggest achievements been since joining the University?

I came to Southampton to be the first Director of the new Oceanography Centre, and getting that up and running with the staff of two university departments, two research council institutes and the ship operations people all working together, more-or-less happily, was a big challenge. Since stepping down from that role, initiating and building the consortium of people from different universities and institutes who came together to build the Grid Enabled Integrated Earth system model (GENIE), which can model the climate over thousands and millions of years, was an important achievement. I still haven’t figured out how those ice-age cycles work, though, so there is still a lot to do! For more information, visit www.southampton.ac.uk/ climategeoengineering

“We not only need to consider all the different components of the Earth system, but we need to study the physics, chemistry, biology and geology of them all, and put it all together using mathematical models.” Professor John Shepherd, Professorial Research Fellow in Earth System Science Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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Meeting nuclear decommissioning needs With the last of the UK’s nuclear power stations set to close in 2035, and the cost of decommissioning estimated at £100bn, there is a growing need to increase efficiency of this complex process. The expertise and technology developed by a Southampton research team is meeting this requirement and being adopted across the world.

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Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton


There are 16 nuclear reactors at nine power stations across the UK, and over 430 around the world. Making them safe as they come to the end of their lives is a big challenge; the distribution of radioactive by-products of nuclear fission (the process used to split atoms to generate energy) needs to be carefully assessed before deciding how to minimise and safely store the waste. Scientists at the University of Southampton’s Geosciences Advisory Unit (GAU), led by geochemist Professor Ian Croudace and radiochemist Dr Phil Warwick, have developed a better and faster way to extract and measure volatile radioactive materials, specifically tritium and carbon-14 (C-14), which contaminate parts of nuclear sites. The information they have gained has helped sites that are decommissioning nuclear

power stations to make appropriate decisions on the proper disposal of the radioactive waste materials. Volatile materials Over the past 10 years, Ian’s team at the GAU, an industry-focused consultancy unit within the University, has been investigating how to extract the radioactive isotopes tritium and carbon-14 from nuclear site materials. These isotopes are unusual in that they are frequently volatile, which enables them to spread throughout reactor buildings and get into the wood, concrete and metalwork. Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen, is classed as a ‘soft beta emitter,’ meaning that its external radiation risk is low. However, Ian explains that because tritium is generally volatile, it can be inhaled and lead to an internal }

Techniques developed by the University’s Geosciences Advisory Unit are enabling nuclear power stations in the UK (like Chapelcross, shown here) and across the world to be made safe more quickly and cost-effectively than was previously possible Image courtesy of Magnox Ltd Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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“Since the instrument and associated methods were developed 10 years ago, we estimate that the innovation will have generated between £15m and £20m of turnover in the UK economy.” Professor Ian Croudace, Director of the Geosciences Advisory Unit (GAU)

radiation dose which needs to be controlled and assessed. C-14, also potentially a volatile beta-emitter, can pose a similar risk.

of the Pyrolyser, which has become an industry-standard device.

The GAU team made several early discoveries arising from their tritium research that have been of interest to the decommissioning sector. For example, they showed that tritium can exist in different forms in the concrete bioshields of nuclear reactors, designed to protect workers from radiation during the operation of a nuclear power plant. “At the end of the life of a nuclear reactor and after the nuclear fuel has been removed, the concrete bioshield eventually needs to be dismantled and prepared for safe disposal,” says Ian. “Our work showed that two types of tritium exist in this bioshield and the type present depends partly on the distance from the reactor core. Our findings have had implications for accurate analysis and potential disposal strategies.”

The Pyrolyser system and the analytical know-how of the GAU team, has had a widespread impact on the nuclear industry in the UK. Magnox power stations, former UK Atomic Energy Authority research sites, MoD facilities – including the Atomic Weapons Establishment and the National Physical Laboratory – have all used the team’s techniques to enhance their analytical and decommissioning capabilities.

Innovative instrument Drawing on their experience of tritium and C-14 extraction and measurement, Ian and Phil commercialised their prototype furnace system, the Pyrolyser. “Prior to the appearance of the Pyrolyser, tritium and C-14 analysis was carried out at a rate of one sample per furnace, which is very slow,” says Ian. “Our approach was to make a multi-sample, fully-integrated furnace that could heat several samples at the same time.” A single Pyrolyser system can extract tritium and C-14 up to six times faster than was previously possible. Its effectiveness, rapidity and compact design, along with its ability to systematically extract tritium and C-14 in complex materials, contributed to the international success

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Benefits to industry

The GAU team has also had an important role in the largest private sector radiological decommissioning programme in the UK. When global medical technology company GE Healthcare decided to close down its key research and manufacturing facility in Cardiff, the GAU team was asked to provide expert guidance on the best means of analysis and to undertake more than 3,000 highprecision analyses of tritium and C-14. The GE Healthcare Director of Decommissioning described GAU’s work as “vital in helping GE to deliver results against extremely aggressive timelines while satisfying all regulatory requirements.” Global impact As well as across Europe, the Pyrolyser system and GAU analytical expertise has been adopted in China, South Korea and the USA, and has become an industry-standard device. “Although it is difficult to quantify, the benefits of our research to the nuclear industry across the world have been widely acknowledged,” says Ian. “So far we have

Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

carried out well over 10,000 tritium and 6,000 C-14 analyses for the nuclear sector, and other laboratories using the Pyrolyser have done more than 80,000 extractions and analyses based on our methods in the UK alone.” The GAU team’s research has also increased the proportion of materials from disused power plants that can be recycled and re-used. Working with the UK Atomic Energy Authority, Ian’s team showed that the tritium contaminating one of the sites was almost entirely confined to the paint and surface corrosion layers, which could be easily removed. “This meant that several hundred tonnes of reactor-building steel could be successfully recycled after being decontaminated with shot blasting,” says Ian. Similarly, nuclear industry decommissioning specialist Studsvik has credited GAU’s work with helping them to recycle 95 per cent of the low-level radioactive waste that would previously have been disposed of. The team has plans to adapt their techniques for other areas of nuclear decommissioning in order to improve the process further. “We know that the Pyrolyser is effective in extracting other volatile radionuclides, such as those of chlorine and iodine, so we are now proving this capability.” says Ian. “Since the instrument and associated methods were developed 10 years ago, we estimate that the innovation will have generated between £15m and £20m of turnover in the UK economy, including around £2m in contract income for the University, with clear benefits to society.” For more information, visit www.southampton.ac.uk/radionuclide


Decommissioning nuclear power stations at the end of their lives is a major challenge for industry Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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Protecting our underwater heritage Dr Justin Dix, Head of the Geology and Geophysics Research Group, is part of a team that has developed and commercialised a range of new methods for investigating the seabed. New Boundaries finds out more.

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Why is mapping of the seabed important?

Originally used for navigational purposes, mapping the seabed is now an essential component of any offshore construction process, whether for marine renewables such as wind farms and tidal turbines, ports or the oil and gas industry. It is also vital for mineral extraction (everything from gravels to diamonds), the identification of buried objects for both military and civilian purposes, and for understanding our underwater heritage so we can protect it.

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Why is it a challenge?

Previous attempts by both the academic and industrial communities to image small buried artefacts in the marine environment met with limited success. This was due to a combination of inappropriate equipment, inadequate data collection and processing methods, and a lack of information on the acoustic properties of common archaeological and geological materials.

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What new methods have you developed to achieve this?

We have developed a high-resolution 3D imaging system (3D Chirp) for looking at the top few tens of metres of the seabed. Our method can identify and characterise objects as small as 30 centimetres and can be used for identifying unexploded ordnance buried in the near surface, the virtual reconstruction of whole buried shipwrecks and even studying the internal structure of submerged landslides. This system and its 2D equivalent are now being commercialised with Kongsberg Geoacoustics Ltd.

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Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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What does your current research involve?

I am part of an interdisciplinary group of researchers, including ocean and Earth scientists and electrical engineers, who are looking at the importance of seabed geology on high voltage cables. These cables export power from wind farms and form a major component of the trans-national transfer of power from the UK to Europe and beyond. We are also investigating the submerged heritage of the continental shelf. Submerged landscapes across the globe give us vital clues to where we have come from; our earliest ancestors would have lived in and migrated across them during periods of lower sea levels and so these underwater landscapes represent important archaeological archives which can provide a totally different perspective on our past from more commonly investigated terrestrial sites. By creating accurate images of artefact sites such as historic shipwrecks and understanding the physical processes that affect them as they rest on the ocean floor, we are in a much better position to protect and manage our undersea cultural heritage.

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What impact is your research having on society?

Our work has had a wide-reaching impact across national and international, commercial and government sectors. This includes sonar product development, marine cultural heritage management, mineral resource management and assessment, expert analysis to major offshore infrastructure projects, military and law enforcement support, and commercial and military sector training. For example, we are providing advice directly to the UK government on how to best preserve our undersea environment and we are working with providers of nuclear power, wind power and trans-national energy


New industry datasets provide researchers with an unprecedented information on the geology of the seabed. Bathymetry British Crown and Seazone Solutions Limited. All Rights Reserved.

connectors to help them develop sustainable infrastructure for their energy sources. Our methods have even been used to assist national and international police forces’ underwater search teams.

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How are you influencing policy?

Our team has written UK government guidance, published by English Heritage in 2013, for the offshore use of marine archaeological geophysics. I am a member of English Heritage’s Historic Wreck Panel, whose role is to advise ‘on specialist issues of policy and practice related to complex, contentious and high-profile historic wreck sites in UK territorial waters.’ I am also an expert advisor to the National Crime Agency, with specific reference to underwater search.

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Is multidisciplinary collaboration necessary for your research?

It is essential. The only way we could develop such an extensive research base is through working with a wide group of people across the University, in Ocean and Earth Science, the Centre for Maritime Archaeology, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, Maritime Engineering and Ship Science, Electronics and Electrical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering and of course the National Oceanography Centre Southampton.

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How important is public engagement?

skills to a local cluster of primary and junior schools. In the next year we are working on a project, led by colleagues from the Centre of Maritime Archaeology, to put together a massive open online course (MOOC) to go live in 2014.

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What have been your biggest achievements since joining the University?

My biggest achievements have to be developing and implementing the approaches for the high-resolution imaging and analysis of the seabed; working effectively between research councils, government and industry; and, most importantly, being involved in such a wide range of research questions, from early hominin evolution to the characterisation of mineral resources on the UK shelf.

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What support is available for early career researchers here?

I have been at the University for 20 years now, and it has certainly been a good place to develop my career. We have so much infrastructure capability and such a wide mix of people that it provides an excellent platform for development for researchers at the start of their careers. For more information, visit www.southampton.ac.uk/seabedimaging

It is very important; to protect our marine heritage for the future, we need to communicate our research to the next generation. We have been involved in a wide range of public engagement activities, from Channel 4’s Time Team to a new project supported by AstraZeneca, and in collaboration with the Mary Rose Trust, to use marine archaeology as a vehicle to develop cross-curricular inquiry

Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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In brief

Discovering new species

Chocolate and diamonds

Preserving Venice

Marine biologists have, for the first time, found a whale skeleton on the ocean floor near Antarctica, giving new insights into life in the sea depths. The discovery includes the find of at least nine new species of deep-sea organisms thriving on the bones.

Scientists from Ocean and Earth Science have discovered a previously unrecognised volcanic process, similar to one used in chocolate manufacturing, which gives important new insights into the dynamics of volcanic eruptions.

Southampton researchers have shown that the sea-surface temperature in coastal regions of Venice is rising as much as 10 times faster than the global average of 0.13 degrees per decade.

When a whale dies and sinks to the ocean floor, scavengers quickly strip its flesh. Over time, other organisms then colonise the skeleton and gradually use up its remaining nutrients. Bacteria break down the fats stored in whale bones, for example, and in turn provide food for other marine life.

The research team investigated how a process called fluidised spray granulation can occur during kimberlite eruptions – formed by gas-rich magmas from mantle depths of over 150km – to produce well-rounded particles containing fragments from the Earth’s mantle, most notably diamonds.

The research team from the University of Southampton, Natural History Museum, British Antarctic Survey, National Oceanography Centre and University of Oxford surveyed the whale skeleton using high-definition cameras to examine the deep-sea animals living on the bones and collected samples to analyse ashore.

Kimberlite volcanoes erupt to form diverging pipes or diatremes, which can be several hundred metres wide and several kilometres deep. A previously poorly understood feature of these pipes are well-rounded, magma-coated fragments of rock known as pelletal lapilli, which form by spray granulation and are thought to represent rapidly cooled magma. Samples also revealed several new species of Concentrations of pelletal lapilli are linked to deep-sea creatures thriving on the whale’s diamond grade (carats per tonne), size and remains, including a ‘bone-eating zombie worm’ quality, and therefore have economic as well known as Osedax burrowing into the bones and as academic significance. a new species of isopod crustacean, similar to woodlice, crawling over the skeleton. Earth scientist Dr Thomas Gernon, who led the research team, says: “This multidisciplinary Southampton PhD student Diva Amon, who research, incorporating Earth sciences, worked on the project, says: “Examining the chemical and mechanical engineering, provides remains of this southern Minke whale gives evidence for fluidised granulation in natural an insight into how nutrients are recycled in systems which will be of considerable interest the ocean, which may be a globally important to engineers and chemical, pharmaceutical and process in our oceans.” food scientists who use this process routinely. The scale and complexity of this granulation process is unique, as it has not previously been recognised in natural systems.”

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Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

The team, led by Professor Carl Amos, believes that this is partly as a result of a process known as the urban heat island effect, where regions experiencing rapid industrial and urban expansion produce heat, making the area warmer than its surroundings. “The findings in Venice are the result of a 15-year partnership with the city. They are of great importance and have worldwide applications,” says Carl. “Massive urbanisation of the coastal zones means urban heat islands represent an acute problem, particularly for the fishing industry and also for the maintenance of coastal infrastructure. The consequences of the urban heat island effect need addressing urgently to secure the future of our coastal habitats.” Southampton’s research in Venice has highlighted the tension between tourism’s economic benefits and environmental repercussions. Analyses of seawater temperature trends in the Venice Lagoon have suggested an increase throughout the year at rates higher than that predicted globally by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – a result directly linked to tourism.


Detecting methane deposits Methane trapped in ocean sediments as ice-like methane hydrate has the potential to be a potent agent of global environmental change. Southampton researchers led by Professor Tim Minshull, Professor Martin Sinha and Dr Karen Weitemeyer are using cutting-edge techniques they have pioneered to find out more about this phenomenon. On a research cruise on the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross last year, the team investigated such methane reserves around Svalbard in the Arctic. One of the methods used was controlled source electromagnetic (CSEM) surveying, which estimates the concentration of electrically resistive methane gas or hydrate present in the pore spaces of sediments. Around a decade ago, the University played a pivotal role in developing CSEM, which became one of the greatest technological advances in this field since the development of 3D seismic techniques. Since then, oil companies have taken up this technology and it is still at the forefront of groundbreaking research. “There is increasing interest in hydrates both as an agent of environmental change and as a potential resource,” said Tim. “It has been exciting to work with our international partners in using new geophysical tools to study hydrate systems. Through a mixture of observations and computer models, we are learning that these systems can release methane gas in complex and unexpected ways.”

Water column sampling equipment

Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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In brief Image courtesy of Sue Ann Watson

Exploring our oceans

Understanding sea-level rise

The deep sea is still relatively unexplored, but pioneering Southampton researchers have discovered deep-sea vents teeming with new life and valuable metals such as gold, platinum and copper.

Southampton researchers have discovered new evidence about changes in the Earth’s sea level over the past half million years that provides The discovery of a new bird-like dinosaur context to projections of future sea-level rise. from the Jurassic period challenges widely A Southampton research team led by Eelco accepted theories on the origin of flight. Rohling, Professor of Ocean and Climate Over many years, it has become accepted Change, has developed a new method of among palaeontologists that birds evolved reconstructing past changes in sea level from a group of dinosaurs called theropods by measuring oxygen isotope ratios in from the Early Cretaceous period of Earth’s microfossils from the Red Sea floor. history, around 120–130 million years ago. By determining how fast the sea level has Recent discoveries of feathered dinosaurs changed during the warmer periods between from the older Middle-Late Jurassic ice ages, the team was able to improve the period have reinforced this theory. current level of understanding of the potential Dr Gareth Dyke, Senior Lecturer in Vertebrate for sea-level rise in the future, helping planners Palaeontology, and his team have discovered a to determine a realistic ‘worst case’ scenario. feathered dinosaur that pre-dates the dinosaurs They have shown that the sea level around that birds were thought to have evolved from. three million years ago, when the atmosphere had modern-day levels of CO2, stood between “This discovery sheds further doubt on the 10 and 30 metres above the modern level. theory that the famous fossil Archaeopteryx – or ‘first bird’ as it is sometimes referred Eelco says: “We have provided a natural context to – was pivotal in the evolution of modern to projections of potential sea-level rise for birds,” says Gareth. “Our findings suggest the near future, which can help to evaluate the that the origin of flight was much more plausibility of different projections that are complex than previously thought,” he adds. made for different greenhouse scenarios.” The new ‘bird-dinosaur’ Eosinopteryx The results have been used by the Environment is described in the journal Nature Agency and the UK Climate Impact Programme, Communications. The fossilised remains as well as agencies in the Netherlands, Sweden found in north-eastern China indicate and the United States. that, while feathered, this was a flightless dinosaur, because of its small wingspan and a bone structure that would have restricted its ability to flap its wings.

As precious metal resources on land increasingly become a cause for concern, we could consider looking to the oceans to provide the means to support our technology-led society. Our researchers were the first to discover deep-sea vents and the marine life around them in the Caribbean and the Antarctic. “More than half of our planet is deep ocean and we are increasingly using this resource for different things such as fishing and extracting oil and gas. We are also starting to see mining for metals such as copper and iron from the sea floor,” says marine biologist Dr Jon Copley, who co-led the Caribbean expedition. “But we don’t yet fully understand what governs the patterns of life down there. If we want to make responsible decisions about how to use the oceans sustainably, it is imperative we get the understanding and knowledge of the habitat,” he adds. This year a new team led by Jon returned to the Cayman Trough with high-definition cameras and sampling equipment. They were accompanied by the BBC’s Science Editor, David Shukman, to improve the public awareness of the oceans.

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Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

New dinosaur fossil challenges bird evolution theory


Uncovering copper Research at Southampton has resulted in a new scientific understanding of the processes responsible for ore formation in rocks. This has provided new opportunities for exploration of copper and other useful metals in the Zambian Basin and other sedimentary basins around the world. Copper has many industrial uses, from power generation and transmission of electricity to wiring and contacts for computers and mobile phones. Professor Steve Roberts and his team have investigated the formation of

copper deposits in the Zambian Copper Belt, the largest known repository of copper on Earth, in order to identify other potential sources of the metal.

inversion and shear zones within the basement rocks, and that thermochemical sulphate reduction was a key process in the formation of the mineralisation,� says Steve.

A combination of field observations, major and trace element geochemistry, and stable isotope techniques has shown that the copper-cobalt ore deposits preserved previously unrecognised signals of setting and potential formation timing.

The economic impact of Steve’s research is that more exploration targets can be identified to aid better exploitation of ore bodies in the Zambian Basin, against a background of global increasing demand and market price of copper.

“Our research has recognised, for the first time, that mineralisation was related to basin

For more information, visit www.southampton.ac.uk/oes/research

Ocean and Earth Science New Boundaries | University of Southampton

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Selection of journal papers published in the first half of 2013 This sample of journal papers indicates the breadth of research in Ocean and Earth Science. Our academics have contributed to numerous papers during the last year. For more research papers, please view individual staff profiles online. E. P. Achterberg, C. M. Moore, S. A. Henson, S. S. Steigenberger, A. Stohl, S. Eckhardt, L.C. Avendano, M. Cassidy, D. Hembury, J.K. Klar, M. I. Lucas, A. I. Macey, C. Marsay, T. J. Ryan-Keogh Natural iron fertilization by the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption Geophysical Research Letters 2013 Vol. 40 pp. 921–926 J. D. Amon, A. G. Glover, H. Wiklund, L. Marsh, K. Linse, A. D. Rogers, J. T. Copley The discovery of a natural whale fall in the Antarctic deep sea Deep Sea Research Part II Topical Studies in Oceanography 2013 (In Press) C. L. Amos, T. B. Al-Rashidi, K. Rakha, H. El-Gamily, R. J. Nicholls Sea surface temperature trends in the coastal ocean Current Development in Oceanography 2013 Vol. 6 pp 1–13 A. Aquilina, D. P. Connelly, J. T. Copley, D. R. H. Green, J. A. Hawkes, L. E. Hepburn, V. A. I. Huvenne, L. Marsh, R. A. Mills, P. A. Tyler Geochemical and visual indicators of hydrothermal fluid flow through a sediment-hosted volcanic ridge in the Central Bransfield Basin (Antarctica) PLoS ONE 2013 Vol. 8 e54686 M. D. Ballmer, C. P. Conrad, E. I. Smith, N. Harmon Non-hotspot volcano chains produced by migration of shear-driven upwelling toward the East Pacific Rise Geology 2013 Vol. 41 pp. 479–482 R. Bintanja, G. J. van Oldenborgh, S. S. Drijfhout, B. Wouters C. A. Katsman Important role for ocean warming and increased ice-shelf melt in Antarctic sea-ice expansion Nature Geoscience 2013 Vol. 6 pp. 376–379 M. Cassidy, J. Trofimovs, M. R. Palmer, P. J. Talling, S. F. L. Watt, S. G. Moreton, R. N. Taylor Timing and emplacement dynamics of newly recognised mass flow deposits at ~8–12ka offshore Soufrière Hills volcano, Montserrat: How submarine stratigraphy can complement subaerial eruption histories Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 2013 Vol. 253 pp. 1–14

R. H. Condon, C. M. Duarte, K. A. Pitt, K. L. Robinson, C. H. Lucas, K. R. Sutherland, H. W. Mianzan, M. Bogeberg, J. E. Purcell, M. B. Decker, S.-i. Uye, L. P. Madin, R. D. Brodeur, S. H. D. Haddock, A. Malej, G. D. Parry, E. Eriksen, J. Quinones, M. Acha, M. Harvey, J. M. Arthur, W. M. Graham Recurrent jellyfish blooms are a consequence of global oscillations Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2013 Vol. 110 pp. 1000–1005 K. M. Edgar, S. M. Bohaty, S. J. Gibbs, P. F. Sexton, R. D. Norris, P. A. Wilson Symbiont ‘bleaching’ in planktic foraminifera during the Middle Eocene Climatic Optimum Geology 2013 Vol. 41 pp. 15–18 G. L. Foster, E. J. Rohling Relationship between sea level and climate forcing by CO2 on geological timescales Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2013 Vol. 110 pp. 1209–1214 E. Frajka-Williams, W. E. Johns, C. S. Meinen, L. M. Beal, S. A. Cunningham Eddy impacts on the Florida current Geophysical Research Letters 2013 Vol. 40 pp. 349–353 S. J. Gibbs, A. J. Poulton, P. R. Bown, C. J. Daniels, J. Hopkins, J. R. Young, H. L. Jones, G. J. Thiemann, S. A. O’Dea, C. Newsam Species-specific growth response of coccolithophores to Palaeocene–Eocene environmental change Nature Geoscience 2013 Vol. 6 pp. 218–222 J. A. Godbold, D. M. Bailey, M. A. Collins, J. D. M. Gordon, W. A. Spallek, I. G. Priede Putative fishery-induced changes in biomass and population size structures of demersal deep-sea fishes in ICES Sub-area VII, Northeast Atlantic Ocean Biogeosciences 2013 Vol. 10 pp. 529–539

P. Godefroit, A. Cau, H. Dong-Yu, F. Escuillie, W. Wenhao, G. J. Dyke A Jurassic avialan dinosaur from China resolves the early phylogenetic P. Cazenave, J. K. Dix, D. Lambkin, L. C. McNeill history of birds A method for semi-automated objective quantification of linear bedforms from Nature 2013 Vol. 498 pp. 359–362 multi-scale digital elevation models Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 2013 Vol. 38 pp. 221–236

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I. D. Haigh, L. R. MacPherson, M. S. Mason, E. M. S. Wijeratne, C. B. Pattiaratchi, R. P. Crompton, S. George Estimating present day extreme water level exceedance probabilities around the coastline of Australia: tides, extra-tropical storm surges and mean sea level Climate Dynamics 2013 Online First doi:10.1007/s00382-012-1652-1 J. A. Hawkes, M. Gledhill, D. P. Connelly, E. P. Achterberg Characterisation of iron binding ligands in seawater by reverse titration Analytica Chimica Acta 2013 Vol. 766 pp. 53–60 Z. P. Jiang, D. J. Hydes, T. Tyrrell, S. Hartman, M. C. Hartman, C. Dumousseaud, X. P. Padin, I. Skjelvan, C. González-Pola Key controls on the seasonal and interannual variations of the carbonate system and air-sea CO2 flux in the Northeast Atlantic (Bay of Biscay) Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans 2013 Vol. 118 pp. 785–800 L. Marsh, J. T. Copley, V. A. I. Huvenne, P. A. Tyler Getting the bigger picture: using precision remotely operated vehicle (ROV) videography to acquire high-definition mosaic images of newly discovered hydrothermal vents in the Southern Ocean Deep Sea Research Part II Topical Studies in Oceanography 2013 Vol. 92 pp. 124–135

L. J. W. Pinson, M. E. Vardy, J. K. Dix, T. J. Henstock, J. M. Bull, S. E. MacLachlan Deglacial history of glacial lake Windermere, UK; implications for the central British and Irish Ice Sheet Journal of Quaternary Science 2013 Vol. 28 pp. 83–94 A. Sluijs, R. E. Zeebe, P. K. Bijl, S. M. Bohaty A middle Eocene carbon cycle conundrum Nature Geoscience 2013 Vol. 6 pp. 429–434 G. L. Smith, L. C. McNeill, K. Wang, J. He, T. J. Henstock Thermal structure and megathrust seismogenic potential of the Makran subduction zone Geophysical Research Letters 2013 Vol. 40 pp. 1528–1533 K. E. Smit, S. Thatje The subtle intracapsular survival of the fittest: maternal investment, sibling conflict or environmental effects? Ecology 2013 doi: 10.1890/12–1701.1 C. N. Trueman Chemical taphonomy of biomineralized tissues Palaeontology 2013 Vol. 56 pp. 475–486

C. Mielke, E. Frajka-Williams, J. Baehr Observed and simulated variability of the AMOC at 26°N and 41°N Geophysical Research Letters 2013 Vol. 40 pp. 1159–1164

S. Waterman, A. C. Naveira Garabato, K. L. Polzin Internal waves and turbulence in the Antarctic circumpolar current Journal of Physical Oceanography 2013 Vol. 43 pp. 259–282

D. Naish, M. Simpson, G. Dyke A new small-bodied azhdarchoid pterosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of England and its implications for pterosaur anatomy, diversity and phylogeny PLoS ONE 2013 Vol. 8 e58451

A. P. Webber, S. Roberts, R. N. Taylor, I. K. Pitcairn Golden plumes: substantial gold enrichment of oceanic crust during ridgeplume interaction Geology 2013 Vol. 41 pp. 87–90

A. C. Naveira Garabato, A. J. George Nurser, R. B. Scott, J. A. Goff The impact of small-scale topography on the dynamical balance of the ocean Journal of Physical Oceanography 2013 Vol. 43 pp. 647–668

J. Wiedenmann, C. D’Angelo, E. G. Smith, A. N. Hunt, F.-E. Legiret, A. D. Postle, E. P. Achterberg Nutrient enrichment can increase the susceptibility of reef corals to bleaching Nature Climate Change 2013 Vol. 3 pp. 160–164

V. Nye, J. Copley, P. A. Tyler Spatial variation in the population structure and reproductive biology of Rimicaris hybisae (Caridea: Alvinocarididae) at hydrothermal vents on the Mid-Cayman Spreading Centre PLoS ONE 2013 Vol. 8 e60319 K. I. C. Oliver, R. Tailleux Thermobaric control of gravitational potential energy generation by diapycnal mixing in the deep ocean Geophysical Research Letters 2013 Vol. 40 pp. 327–331

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