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The Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) is an international initiative of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) and the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR). Developed over many years, SOOS was officially launched at the end of 2011 with the opening of the International Project Office, hosted by the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), and the Australian Research Council's Antarctic Gateway Partnership at the University of Tasmania, Australia. Since then, SOOS has built a network of stakeholders and contributors, all working together to achieve the community-defined mission and objectives


SOOS is an international initiative with the mission to facilitate the collection and delivery of essential observations on dynamics and change of Southern Ocean systems to all international stakeholders (researchers, governments, industries), through design, advocacy and implementation of cost-effective observing and data delivery systems.


SOOS Objectives are structured to follow a logical sequence of implementation: Design of the System, Capabilities, Observations, Regional Implementation, Data Delivery, Support Activities.

  1. Facilitate the design and implementation of a comprehensive and multi-disciplinary observing system for the Southern Ocean.
  2. Advocate and guide the development of new observation technologies.
  3. Compile and encourage use of existing international standards and methodologies, and facilitate the development of new standards where required.
  4. Unify and enhance current observation efforts and leverage further resources across disciplines, and between nations and programs.
  5. Facilitate linking of sustained long-term observations to provide a system of enhanced data discovery and delivery, utilising existing data centres and programmatic efforts combined with, as needed, purpose-built data management and storage systems.
  6. Provide services to communicate, coordinate, advocate and facilitate SOOS objectives and activities.

The SOOS Vision

SOOS has the vision that sustained observations of dynamics and change of the physics, chemistry, geology and biology of the Southern Ocean system should be readily accessible to provide a foundation for enabling the international scientific community to advance understanding of the Southern Ocean and for managers to address critical societal challenges.

In 2012, SOOS published its vision for the future, outlining the long-term goal of SOOS, the gains inherent in its implementation, and how the international community can move towards achieving it.

fig1 soos 3d 20 yr vision final 2012 lowres

The SOOS vision is nicely summarised in this schematic. It shows a cyberinfrastructure-based vision for SOOS, where marine assets would include a mixture of both autonomous and non-autonomous platforms, but relying more heavily on the former over time. Combined with satellite remote sensing, the data would be relayed to ground stations in real time, where assimilating ocean models would produce near real-time state estimates of each of the parameters in the system. The error fields associated with these assimilating models would then be used to re-task the autonomous platforms in real time, thus maximising the spatial-temporal coverage of each of the parameters being measured, without specific need for human intervention.

The above vision is many years away, and it behoves us to work towards it progressively, yet strategically. Significant advances in cyberinfrastructure, modelling and observation technologies are needed to achieve the required capabilities. Further, international cooperation, infrastructure and investment are critical for the success of SOOS. 

Learn more about SOOS by visiting their website:

Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice and 70% of its fresh water, enough to raise sea level by more than fifty metres. Some regions of Antarctica, particularly the Peninsula, have warmed rapidly in recent years, contributing to disintegration of ice shelves and accelerating the retreat of glaciers. There is growing consensus that the Antarctic ice sheet is experiencing a net mass loss. Loss of ice from the West Antarctic ice sheet may possibly contribute to a rise in sea level by 2100 of up to 1.9 metres. Observations of the cryosphere are therefore of the utmost importance. SCAR is a partner in the Integrated Global Observing Strategy Cryosphere Theme Report (CryOS) and various SCAR programmes such as the Antarctic Sea Ice Processes and Climate Expert Group (ASPeCt) make a direct contribution to this effort and will continue to do so.

The Southern Ocean plays unique and critical roles in the Earth system by driving global weather and climate. For example, Antarctic Bottom Water, formed along the Antarctic coast, sinks to ventilate the global ocean. Meanwhile, Antarctic Intermediate Waters supply the world ocean with 75% of the nutrients that sustain ocean productivity. The ocean absorbs around 40% of anthropogenic atmospheric emissions of CO2 of which 40% is absorbed by the Southern Ocean20. This uptake is increasing the acidity of the oceans, which may be deleterious to marine organisms and ecosystems. It has been documented that the Southern Ocean is changing, but observations to confirm and monitor this change are sparse. Integrated, multi- disciplinary observations are needed to understand and predict the response of biota to changes in Southern Ocean chemistry, temperatures and circulation. A plan and 20-year vision for the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS) have been developed with the support of international partners, in particular the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR).

For further details please see:


Additional Resources:

Near-Earth space is an integral part of the Earth system, providing the link between the Sun and Earth primarily through the Polar Regions and posing a potential hazard to space- borne and ground based technology on which society is increasingly dependent. Near-Earth space observations also offer the potential for linking space weather (and such phenomena as solar flares) to terrestrial weather as experienced in the lower atmosphere; such linkage calls for close collaboration between the ground and space weather communities. An integrated, quantitative description of the upper atmosphere over Antarctica and its coupling to the geo-space environment is needed.

Antarctica also has unique characteristics that make it a highly desirable vantage point for upper atmospheric, solar, astrophysical and astronomical observations. Antarctic astronomy and astrophysics researchers address fundamental questions including: locating the first stars and galaxies; defining the nature of the dark universe; detecting gravity waves; and identifying exo-planets and the formation of exo-solar systems. The interests of this community will continue to evolve as major new infrastructure and instruments come on-line enhancing an already impressive array of instruments in the Polar Regions. 

For further details please see:

GeoSciences Group (GSG)

Life Sciences Group (LSG)

Physical Sciences Group (PSG)

Astronomy & Astrophysics from Antarctica (AAA)

Antarctic Climate Change in the 21st Century (AntClim21)

State of the Antarctic Ecosystem (AntEco)

Antarctic Thresholds - Ecosystem Resilience and Adaptation (AnT-ERA)

Past Antarctic Ice Sheet Dynamics (PAIS)

Solid Earth Response and influence on Cryosphere Evolution (SERCE)

Antarctic Clouds and Aerosols (ACA) Action Group

Expert Group on Antarctic Climate Change and the Environment (ACCE)

Action Group on Ocean Acidification

Antarctic Digital Magnetic Anomaly Project (ADMAP) Expert Group

Antarctic Near-shore and Terrestrial Observing System (ANTOS)

Antarctic Permafrost And Soils (ANTPAS) Expert Group

Expert Group on Antarctic Volcanism (AntVolc)

Antarctic Sea-ice Processes and Climate (ASPeCt) Expert Group

Biogeochemical Exchange Processes at the Sea-Ice Interfaces (BEPSII) Action Group

Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recorder Database (SO-CPR) Expert Group

Connecting Geophysics with Geology (CGG) Action Group

Expert Group on Antarctic Biodiversity Informatics (EG-ABI)

Expert Group on Birds and Marine Mammals (EG-BAMM)

Forum for Research into Ice Shelf Processes (FRISP) Expert Group


Geological Heritage and Geoconservation Action Group

Geological Mapping Update of Antarctica (GeoMap)

Geodetic Infrastructure of Antarctica (GIANT) Expert Group

GNSS Research and Application for Polar Environment (GRAPE) Expert Group

Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics in the Southern Ocean (ICED)

A Co-Sponsored Group

International Partnership in Ice Core Sciences (IPICS) (Expert Group)

International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean (IBCSO) Expert Group

Joint Expert Group on Human Biology and Medicine (JEGHBM)

Ice Sheet Mass Balance and Sea Level (ISMASS) Expert Group

Integrated Science for the Sub-Antarctic (ISSA)

Operational Meteorology in the Antarctic (OpMet) Expert Group

Polar Atmospheric Chemistry at the Tropopause (PACT) Action Group

Action Group on Remote Sensing

Sun-Earth Relationships and Antarctica (SERAnt) Action Group

Snow in Antarctica (SnowAnt) Action Group

The CLIVAR/CliC/SCAR Southern Ocean Region Panel (SORP)

Tropical Antarctic Teleconnections (TATE) Action Group

History of the Institutionalisation of Antarctic Research (Expert Group)

The Humanities

Humanities and Social Sciences Expert Group (HASSEG)

Action Group on Environmental Contamination in Antarctica (ECA)

Interhemispheric Conjugacy Effects in Solar-Terrestrial and Aeronomy Research (ICESTAR) Expert Group

Multibeam Data Acquisition Action Group

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
c/o Scott Polar Research Institute
University of Cambridge
Lensfield Road
Cambridge, CB2 1ER, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1223 336550