The Southern Ocean carbon and climate observations and modeling (SOCCOM) project: a review


  • SOCCOM has deployed >260 BGC-Argo floats with O2, NO3, pH and bio-optical sensors.
  • SOCCOM floats operate throughout the Southern Ocean including the seasonal ice zone.
  • All SOCCOM float data is freely available in real-time.
  • A Biogeochemical Southern Ocean State Estimate (BSOSE) assimilates float data.
  • Float data and BSOSE are used with coupled models to better understand climate.


The Southern Ocean serves as the primary gateway through which the intermediate, deep, and bottom waters of the ocean interact with the surface ocean (and thus the atmosphere), and it has a profound influence on the oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon and heat as well as nutrient resupply from the abyss to the surface. Yet it has been the least observed and understood region of the world ocean. The Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project was implemented in 2014 with a goal to help remedy this deficit in observations and understanding. The SOCCOM project is based on two major advances that have the potential to transform understanding of the Southern Ocean. The first is the development of new biogeochemical sensors mounted on autonomous profiling floats that allow sampling of ocean biogeochemistry in 3-dimensional space. Floats may detect processes with a temporal resolution that ranges from hours to years. The second is that the climate modeling community finally has the computational resources and physical understanding to develop fully coupled climate models that can represent crucial, mesoscale processes in the Southern Ocean, as well as corresponding models that assimilate observations to produce a state estimate. The observational component, based on deployment of profiling floats with oxygen, nitrate, pH and bio-optical sensors, is generating vast amounts of new biogeochemical data that provide a year-round view of the Southern Ocean from the surface to 2000 m. The modeling effort is applying these observations and enhancing our understanding of the current ocean, and reducing uncertainty in projections of future carbon and nutrient cycles and climate. After nine years of operation, including a project renewal in the sixth year, the SOCCOM project has deployed more than 260 profiling floats. These floats have collected over 27,000 vertical profiles throughout the Southern Ocean. A data-assimilating biogeochemical state estimate model has been implemented. Here, the design of the SOCCOM project is reviewed and the scientific results that have been obtained are described. The project’s capability to help meet the observing system priorities outlined for a notional UN Decade for Ocean Sciences Southern Ocean observing system is assessed.

Sarmiento J. L., Johnson K. S., Arteaga L. A., Bushinsky S. M., Cullen H. M., Gray A. R., Hotinski R. M., Maurer T. L., Mazloff M. R., Riser S. C., Russell J. L., Schofield O. M. & Talley L. D., 2023. The Southern Ocean carbon and climate observations and modeling (SOCCOM) project: a review. Progress in Oceanography 219: 103130. doi: 10.1016/j.pocean.2023.103130. Article.

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