This time, the DUSTCO team is preparing for something different, and starting the New Year with a great new adventure :-)
On the 2th January 2019 we will get on board the Brazilian Polar Ship Almirante Maximiano to sail from Punta Arenas (southern Chile) all the way south, through the Drake Passage, to reach the Antarctic Peninsula, during the forthcoming XXXVII scientific expedition “Operação Antártica”, conducted by the Brazilian Navy and organized by the Federal University of Rio Grande (FURG).
Why are we interested in the Antarctic Peninsula?
First of all, this is one of the regions of the planet where the fastest warming of the last 50 years has been observed, with the surface air temperature increasing in average ca. 2° C per year and ca. 6°C per winter. Such changes in the regional climate and sea ice dynamics are likely to affect all levels of the marine food chain, from microbial communities, primary producers (phytoplankton), krill and other zooplankton organisms and fish species, up to top predators whose life histories have varying degrees of affinity with ice.
Secondly, as dust-driven iron deposition appears to be an important factor promoting marine productivity in the Antarctic and Subantarctic regions that are located downwind of major Southern Hemisphere dust sources (e.g. Patagonia and Northern Argentina), this expedition provides interesting perspectives for investigating how dust (inferred from Aerosol Optical Depth) and phytoplankton production (including coccolithophores!) are coupled in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean.
So, for the next couple of months, we will be part of the scientific crew and co-responsible for the collection of plankton samples for the phytoplankton and coccolithophore analysis during this Antarctic expedition. This great opportunity will allow to expand DUSTCO’s transatlantic assessment on the impact of atmospheric dust towards an environmentally broader perspective and exploring the influence of other sources in addition to African dust (e.g. Patagonia and Northern Argentina) over and into the Atlantic Ocean. Our participation is part of the Portuguese PROPOLAR project PHYTO-NAP (“Phytoplankton response to climate trends in the Northern Antarctic Peninsula”) currently ongoing at MARE, of which some of us are also team members.
Not sure how easy will be our access to internet from such a remote region, but we hope to keep you updated on this great adventure as often as possible!