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The turbulent ocean: technological frontiers, new paradigms, and the emerging Arctic

Professor Ilker Fer, Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, Norway

8 November 2022 - 18h30

Venue : Uni Dufour

Only one human life ago, the ocean below the surface was conceptualized as a calm environment, described by highly simplified laws of motion.

Observations were mainly coarse snapshots. These snapshots missed the scales of ocean flows and their complex interactions. Today our knowledge of the ocean is something else. Ocean motions span from centimeters to hundreds of kilometers and distribute heat, dissolved gasses, salts, nutrients, and pollutants around the globe. Increasingly sophisticated observation methods and our ability to model the motions using computers have improved our description of the mechanisms and processes that set the ocean “weather” and ocean “mixing”. We know now that small whirls in the turbulent ocean ultimately affect ocean currents, marine ecosystems, and climate. Today we can describe and constrain the distribution and variability of ocean mixing. This is due to emerging technologies, including autonomous or remotely-piloted underwater vehicles, and advanced sampling methods. A particular example is the role of ocean heat in accelerating sea ice melt in the Arctic.  

The ocean is serving us a huge favour – it absorbs heat and greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and buffers the damaging effects at the expense of increasing ocean temperatures, sea level, and acidity. The state of the ocean in turn largely affects the life of humans, animals, and plants, in coastal regions and beyond.  

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Aux Portes du Nano-Monde