Taking the Pulse of the Ocean

2017 edition

Ignasi Vallès Casanova

In medicine, taking the pulse is a basic method when evaluating the blood circulation in specific points of the human body. Similar to blood circulation distributing different essential properties throughout our body, ocean circulation distributes key properties for life in our blue planet. The ocean holds most of the water, heat, inorganic carbon and nutrients, and life in our planet, and the ocean currents are a major responsible for redistributing most of these properties, hence the extraordinary relevance of their proper measurement. What tools do we use to measure ocean circulation? Where are the best regions to measure the ocean’s pulse? Nowadays a wide range of observational methodologies exist, including classic oceanographic cruises, remote sensing, numerical models, and autonomous Eulerian and Lagrangian systems. The appropriate application and combination of these techniques helps evaluate how ocean circulation may be evolving under the current scenario of climate change. Here we present how our research team takes the Pulse of the Ocean, showing some of our ongoing activities in key regions such as the Tropical and South Atlantic Oceans. We will describe how the data are gathered and will also provide examples on how its analysis leads to a better understanding of the spatial and temporal variability of the ocean circulation system. We will also illustrate the activities carried out during an oceanographic cruise with the upcoming RETRO-BMC cruise, to be carried next April in the Brazil-Malvinas Confluence region, in the western South Atlantic Ocean.