Climate-relevant Ocean Measurements and Processes on the Antarctic continental Shelf and Slope (COMPASS)



    Processes which occur on the Antarctic continental shelf and slope are key to understanding the rate of future rising-sea levels and regulating the carbon cycle. However, our ability to model and predict such processes are rudimentary. This deficiency in understanding originates in a lack of observations in this inaccessible region.  

    Objectives and Activities

    The Climate-relevant Ocean Measurements and Processes on the Antarctic continental Shelf and Slope project (called COMPASS) seeks to rectify that by exploiting new technology - autonomous marine vehicles called gliders - to observe, quantify and elucidate processes on the continental shelf and slope of Antarctica that are important for climate. The COMPASS objective is to make a step-change in our quantitative understanding of:  

    • the ocean front that marks the boundary between the Antarctic continental shelf and the open ocean, and its associated current system;  
    • the interaction between ocean, atmosphere and sea-ice on the Antarctic continental shelf;  
    • the exchange of heat, salt and freshwater with the cavities beneath ice shelves. 

    These goals will be met by a series of targeted ocean glider campaigns around Antarctica, spanning different flow regimes, including areas where warm water is able to access the continental shelf and influence ice shelves, areas where the continental shelf is cold and fresh, and areas where the continental shelf hosts cold, salty, dense water that eventually spills into the abyss. 


    COMPASS intends to develop new technology to deploy a profiling glider into inaccessible environments such as Antarctic polynyas (regions of open water surrounded by sea-ice). As well as scientific breakthroughs that will feed into future climate assessments, improving projections of future sea level rise and global temperatures, COMPASS will deliver enhanced design for future ocean observing systems.

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    The project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the European Research Council, grant agreement No 741120.

    Principal Investigator

    Professor Professor Karen Heywood (School of Environmental Sciences, UEA) 

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