Chemical Oceanography is fundamentally interdisciplinary. Chemical Oceanographers examine the chemical composition of the oceans.They examine the acidity or otherwise and attempt to understand how the ecology, biology and other elements of an ocean might change based on the shifting chemical profile.The chemistry of the ocean is closely tied to ocean circulation, climate, the plants and animals that live in the ocean, and the exchange of material with the atmosphere, cryosphere, continents, and mantle.
Business of chemical Oceanographer
They are essentially oceanographers, but rather than studying the ecology, biological life and geology of the oceans as a broad subject, they examine the chemical composition of this particular environment. The chemistry of our oceans is important. Many plant and animal species have evolved to thrive in certain acidities and cannot thrive when the seawater is too acidic or not acidic enough. When an ocean's chemical composition becomes too unbalanced, it can have a profound effect on the ecology. One of the most important roles they may be working on now is the monitoring of ocean acidification. Oceans are a net carbon sink, but acidification is increasing and this has had measurable effects on the acid levels in the ocean - corals have been bleached as a result of increased carbon emissions and are under serious threat. As the ice caps melt, ocean acidification could be diluted in some areas. Chemical Oceanographers may work with environmental engineers to attempt to redress these problems and restore balance. We approach our research from two directions: field measurements and laboratory studies. The research is interdisciplinary and involves investigating interactions between chemical, biological and physical processes in the oceans. We study the distributions, behavior and chemical speciation of trace metals, nutrients and carbon in the water column. We are also interested in the environmental chemistry of contaminants and nanoparticles in marine systems. We investigate how anthropogenic drivers change the chemistry of the ocean and thus impact on biological processes. It's not just coral and it's not just about climate change. They will look at the problems caused by industrial chemicals and pollution, and advice on policy. They may also work as government advisors, providing evidence for court cases where civil action is brought against a business.
Areas of Research
Many of ours are researching how carbon is distributed and exchanged between the oceans, atmosphere, biosphere and geosphere. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels influence Earth’s surface temperature and are an integral part of the carbon cycle. All living things and the fossil fuels can evolve, are comprised of carbon. The ocean contains a large reservoir of carbon many times the size of the atmospheric reservoir that can substantially alter atmospheric CO2 levels.
Geochemistry of Rivers and Estuaries
The ultimate source of the chemical constituents of the sea is primarily from rivers that deliver their dissolved and particulate input through estuaries. This is the location of the most intimate contact of the ocean with humans.
Chemical oceanography investigates the chemical composition of sea water. Chemical oceanographers study the interactions between organic and inorganic substances and the biological, physical and geological conditions of the ocean. They want to understand how marine chemistry is influenced by physical processes and exchanges with the atmosphere, biosphere and geosphere. Processes, which introduce chemical species into the ocean and those which remove or transform the substances, are important targets of marine chemical research. We preferentially investigate the cycling of those elements which are important for biological processes (eg. carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, iron). The ocean contains each chemical element of our planet either in its pure form or in any kind of chemical compounds either dissolved or particulate. The origin and fate of gases, affecting the atmosphere are a very special element of research therefore. Greenhouse gases, contributing to atmospheric warming, trace gases forming aerosols and those destroying ozone belong to this category. As chemistry controls and reflects the environment of the ocean-earth-atmosphere system, chemical oceanography has links to all the other disciplines of the GEOMAR.
Marine Sediment Geochemistry
Chemical reactions in the ocean change dramatically and are facilitated by a unique set of microbes when the oxygen concentration is exhausted. The most widespread example of this is in ocean sediments which become the most important sink for nitrate after organic matter digenesis depletes oxygen. Other examples are the oxygen minimum zones of the ocean and anoxic basins like the Black Sea.
Several of our scientist research Earth’s climate and how it has varied in the recent and more distant past. Understanding the natural variability of the climate system is essential for determining when the current climate is outside its normal range. Since thermometers, rain gauges, weather balloons, oceanographic research vessels, and satellites have only been used extensively for less than a century the only way to reconstruct climate is from ocean and lake sediment cores, tree rings, coral and the like. Most of these techniques involve chemical analyses of one type or another, a specialty of our department. Accurate reconstructions of the “pre-instrumental” climate are necessary in order to test the complex mathematical models used to predict future climate changes.
Hydrothermal Systems & Chemistry
Chemical reactions at mid-ocean ridge spreading centers that bisect all ocean basins involve unique reactions that greatly influence ocean chemical mass balance and provide a host for unique biological systems.