German skipper, Boris Herrmann has been racing his yacht Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco solo for over 53 days around the world, currently through the Southern Ocean, in the Vendee Globe ocean race. As he reaches day 53 it is New Year’s Eve in Europe.

 

Boris Herrmann, “The Vendée Globe is a race we would like to win, the race against climate change is the one we must win!
Four days before reaching Cape Horn, Boris would like to combine his New Year’s greetings, he said “Thank you to our partners in science and industry. In the pursuit of our sport, they enable us to make a scientific contribution to climate research and provide a platform where we can work with everyone to find solutions to the climate crisis and inspire people around the world to join us in this important race. We wish you all a happy and successful 2021 and we look forward to everything that is to come!”

 

At the same time as competing in one of the toughest ocean races in the world, Boris is also furthering the scientific community’s knowledge on ocean climate change. For the last three years, the team has been gathering data via a SubCtech ocean laboratory installed onboard.

The autonomous laboratory pumps seawater in and up through the keel and continuously measures three main parameters – ocean surface CO2, temperature and salinity. These parameters allow scientists to better understand the impacts of climate change on the ocean. Until now there has been almost no data from this remote region; now with the help of Boris and Seaexplorer, for the first time, we have a picture of Southern Ocean health through a lap of the world.

Stefan Raimund, the team’s partner engineer, commented: “It is always exciting to see scientific data coming in from a race boat!”

“It is an incredible data set, especially your data from the remote South Atlantic – this is very valuable for us. This area is a blank spot on the map of CO2 observations and makes your input so important for the scientific community.”

The team’s partner scientists, Dr Peter Landschutzer from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and Dr Toste Tanhua from Geomar, Kiel are currently preparing the data received to date for submission to the SOCAT database. This database confirms the quality of the data and makes it available worldwide to all scientists. Researchers can use this open access data in order to better understand the global carbon cycle or to feed complex computer models for climate change predictions.

Dr Tanhua said:   “We currently have very few observations this far South, in fact, almost no data exists of this type from this region. The South Atlantic and the Southern Ocean are quite unknown in terms of climate data. That is what makes this type of data so valuable and very exciting for ocean climate scientists to analyse.”

Dr Landschutzer added: “The data collected by Seaexplorer is already being used in the Global Carbon Budget 2020 (link here). This is one of the most influential carbon cycle science studies in the world and the fact that the team are contributing to it in this way is really impressive.”

The ocean laboratory is basically the same as the instruments used on big research vessels. SubCtech replaced the heavy components with carbon fibre components and adjusted the engineering to the special environment on a racing boat. As on research vessels, the instrument is equipped with a reference gas cylinder, allowing automatic calibrations of the pCO2-analyzer and as a consequence, the data is of a higher quality.

 

For Boris, this scientific mission comes hand in hand with racing, so it was an easy decision to help the scientific community whilst racing in the remotest and most inhospitable areas of the world. The additional weight was never a concern as the team saw this as a much greater mission.

 

This New Year on 1st January 2021 also marks the start of the Ocean Decade initiated by the United Nations, this aims to support, promote and fund efforts to reverse the impact of the worsening of the ocean’s health.They are working to unite international stakeholders behind this goal to allow and to maximise the impact science can have in creating improved ocean health. Boris is an ambassador for this mission and explains this message here.

Find out about the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development here.

 

 

 

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