Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla Opens ‘Unprecedented’ Ocean Simulator Facility

December 6, 2021

The La Jolla-based Scripps Institution of Oceanography has unveiled a new research simulator that could give scientists a much more detailed look at how the ocean works.

Unveiled last week, the so-called Scripps Ocean Atmosphere Research Simulator, or SOARS, can replicate ocean conditions from the tropics to the ice caps, according to the La Jolla Light.

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego hopes that SOARS can help researchers look at a number of ocean-related topics, including ocean chemistry, physics, waves, atmospheric changes, and chemical exchanges.

“It is a unique facility,” said Pradeep Khosla, UCSD Chancellor. “The goal of this facility is to bring the ocean into the building, so this facility will take actual seawater, creating waves and understanding ocean atmospheric interaction by instrumenting it very completely and asking questions.”

The SOARS system works by drawing in ocean water from the Pacific and using sunlight captured to solar panels to replicate what occurs in the ocean. Researchers, for example, can generate winds up to 62 mph and even chill the air enough to create an environment that can allow sea ice to form.

Additionally, scientists will be able to pump carbon dioxide into the system to simulate how climate change is going to affect the ocean.

Before the “unprecedented” system, researchers needed to conduct experiments using facilities that could only mimic one needed aspect of oceanography. The first-of-its-kind machine at Scripps can now simulate all of them together.

The facility was partially funded by the National Science Foundation, with the rest of the cost supplied by UC San Diego.

According to the Light, the first experiment carried out at the SOARS facility will be led by Kimberly Prather and will study how increased levels of carbon dioxide affects the chemical composition of the droplets from the ocean that form clouds and sea ice.

About the author: Mike Peterson is a freelance journalist and writer based in North San Diego County. He’s written and worked for a number of local media outlets, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, the North Coast Current, and the Oceanside Blade.

The banner photo is courtesy of Scripps Institute of Technology.

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