SCOTTISH scientists have joined forces with international ocean experts to form the world’s largest marine research group to combine data on environmental changes to the Atlantic Ocean.
The smallest changes to the Atlantic, which is responsible for the mild climate in northern Europe, can cause the ocean to warm, the sea level to rise, and fish populations to decline and migrate.
The launch of AtlantOS (Atlantis Observing System) in Brussels tomorrow brings together 62 partners from 18 countries to enhance the integration and effectiveness of data on the ocean they all collect.
The Scottish Association for Marine Science has joined the project.
The Oban-based centre is providing expertise through Professor Stuart Cunningham, current UK Oceanographer of the Year, who will use moorings to measure the warm water flow of the eastern Atlantic boundary - from the Scottish continental shelf to the Mid-Atlantic Basin.
Dr Mark Inall of SAMS will also take measurements across the eastern boundary using state-of-the-art robotic sea gliders.
The EU is funding AtlantOS as part of its Horizon2020 programme with 21 million euros over a period of four years. The project is co-ordinated by GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, Germany.
Professor Cunningham said: “The ocean is very complex and only by having scientists working together in these multi-national projects can we successfully integrate all of the data we collect.
“It is exciting to be part of AtlantOS, a project at the cutting edge of research into the Atlantic Ocean that will make global connections.”
Project co-ordinator Professor Martin Visbeck said: “Studies in recent years have repeatedly shown that even processes in the deep sea have an impact on the marine ecosystems and on climate in Africa, Europe or America.
“There have been not enough interactions between the physics, chemistry and ecology but also between open-ocean and coastal observing.
“The ocean is a highly complex and interdependent system in which all components are closely linked. Our observational efforts need to reflect that also.
“We have set ourselves very ambitious goals. But the relevance of the Atlantic for Europe is too significant to explore it only in bits and pieces.”