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SO-CHIC (Southern Ocean Carbon and Heat Impact on Climate)

SO-CHIC (Southern Ocean Carbon and Heat Impact on Climate) is a four-year EU-funded project which began in November 2019.

The Southern Ocean regulates the global climate by controlling heat and carbon exchanges between the atmosphere and the ocean. Rates of climate change on decadal time scales ultimately depend on oceanic processes taking place in the Southern Ocean, yet too little is known about the underlying processes. Limitations come both from the lack of observations in this extreme environment and its inherent sensitivity to intermittent small-scale processes that are not captured in current Earth system models.

To contribute to reducing uncertainties in climate change predictions, the overall objective of SO-CHIC is to understand and quantify variability of heat and carbon budgets in the Southern Ocean through an investigation of the key processes controlling exchanges between the atmosphere, ocean and sea ice using a combination of observational and modelling approaches.

SO-CHIC is a highly ambitious project with the aim to unlock understanding of some of the key Southern Ocean processes, which represent the main limitation of the current generation of climate models in their way to represent past and future global heat and carbon cycles. The project proposes to tackle this significant gap in our understanding of the global climate by bringing together old and new observations, along with new specific modelling efforts developed in the different groups within Europe. SO-CHIC's five specific objectives:

O1: To initiate a sustained monitoring of budgets of heat and carbon in the Southern Ocean, by quantifying their fluxes at the air-sea-ice interface and estimating interannual variability of heat and carbon storage in the Southern Ocean.

O2: To improve understanding of the spatial distribution and variability of heat and carbon exchanges between the atmosphere and the deep ocean, focusing on the dynamics of the ocean mixed-layer, its relation to sea ice distribution, and on assessing what has caused the opening of the open-ocean Weddell Polynya in 2016 and 2017 (i.e. a large-scale ice-free area within closed sea-ice cover), more than 40 years after its previous occurrence.

O3: To improve understanding of the formation and export of bottom waters in the Bottom Boundary Layer, which ventilate the world’s abyssal oceans, and to propose new strategies to represent such key processes, which are major shortcomings of current state of the art climate models.

O4: To identify critical sensitivities in the Southern Ocean climate system that must be correctly represented in models in order to significantly reduce uncertainties in future projections of oceanic heat and carbon content.

O5: To enable free and open access to all data and to maximise impact on the climate report (IPCC), climate services, and climate-model groups.

In Work Package 8, the EPB leads Task 8.2: Communication, dissemination and exploitation of results. In this task the EPB will ensure the appropriate dissemination of the results to all relevant stakeholders, including the scientific community, policy makers and the public by working with all participants in all work packages.

SO-CHIC has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement N°821001.

For more information on SO-CHIC, please visit

SO-CHIC webinar series

A series of webinars exploring the scientific questions SO-CHIC is working to answer showcases the project's plans and ongoing research. You can watch recordings of the webinars in the series here.