2002 Annual

Monday, 14 January 2002: 4:00 PM
The Anegada Climate Tracers Study: A small climate change study in an unlikely place with potentially big payoffs
Roy A. Watlington, University of the Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands; and W. D. Wilson

The Anegada Climate Tracers Study (ACTS) has been conducted successfully by the University of the Virgin Islands since 1995 and has returned useful oceanographic data while enhancing local scientific capabilities and creating opportunities for undergraduate science students. It represents a useful example of a small institution can contribute significantly to mainstream research. It further demonstrates how research capabilities can be enhanced through collaboration and illustrates the advantages of including undergraduates in significant research. ACTS was initially dedicated to establish the temporal and spatial variability of the character and magnitude of key climatically significant tracers in the water exchanged in a critical passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. At the same time it supports transport studies in the Windward Island Passages Monitoring Project of the Atlantic Climate Change Project.

At the ACTS hydrographic station in the Anegada Passage, current, velocity, salinity, dissolved oxygen and temperature are measured electronically. Concentrations of these and of certain chlorofluorocarbons are measured in seawater samples captured at various depths Also sampled is dissolved inorganic carbon, the measurement of which will help to characterize the ocean-atmosphere exchange of CO2 and its transport and storage within the ocean while providing information to assist the modeling of the global oceanic CO2 cycle.

The study is expected to record a significant event - the movement to the region of a newly formed mass of Labrador Sea Water through the subtropical region of the Western Atlantic. Apparently formed by a period of intense convection in the Labrador Sea in the late 1980's, this new generation of seawater was recently detected crossing a transect near Abaco, Bahamas. Its advent supports the theory that the oceanic conveyor remains intact as it continues to stabilize global climate.

ACTS achievements have resulted from the support it received from the US Department of Energy. The project's great efficiency is an outcome of the convergence of mutually beneficial collaborations between the University of the Virgin Islands and Brookhaven National Laboratories, the Atlantic Oceanographic and Atmospheric Laboratory of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Miami, and institutions in the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

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