2002-2003 Science Planning Summary

Oceans & Climate

Dr. Bernhard Lettau
Program Manager


NSF/OPP 95-Okeel
Station: Palmer Station
RPSC POC: Rob Edwards
Research Site(s): Palmer Station

A study of atmospheric oxygen variability in relation to annual to decadal variations in terrestrial and marine ecosystems
Dr. Ralph F. Keeling
University of California San Diego
Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Deploying Team Members: No Deployment
Research Objectives: Oxygen, the most abundant element on the Earth, comprises about a fifth of the atmosphere. But much of the Earth's oxygen resides in other chemical species (in water, rocks, and minerals) and, of course, in flora and fauna that recycle it (both directly and as carbon dioxide) through the processes of photosynthesis and respiration. Thus scientists are interested in measuring the concentration of molecular oxygen and carbon dioxide in air samples. This project includes a subset of sample collections being made at a series of baseline sites around the world.

These data should help to improve estimates of the processes whereby oxygen is cycled throughout the global ecosystem, specifically, through photosynthesis and atmospheric mixing rates. They improve predictions of the net exchange rates of carbon dioxide with biota, on land and in the oceans. An important part of the measurement program entails developing absolute standards for oxygen-in-air, to ensure stable long-term calibration. This group will also conduct surveys of the oxidative oxygen/carbon ratios of both terrestrial- and marine-based organic carbon, hoping to improve the quantitative basis for linking the oxygen and carbon dioxide geochemical cycles.

These results should help enhance understanding of the processes that regulate the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and of the change processes -- especially climate change -- that regulate ecological functions on land and in the sea.

Field Season Overview:
No project team members deploy to Antarctica this field season. The Palmer Station physician will collect bi-weekly air samples and return the air-tight flasks to the principal investigator's home institution for analysis.