Principal investigator Grant Deane examines waves in the new Scripps Ocean Atmosphere Research Simulator. Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego

Scripps Institution of Oceanography dedicated a giant ocean simulator Monday that will help researchers understand the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans.

The 120-foot-long, 36,000-gallon “miniature ocean” housed at Scripps’ Hydraulics Laboratory will enable scientists to preview the oceans and atmospheres of the future in which climate is altered even further by human activities

For example, experiments could simulate how the ocean and atmosphere will interact when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere increase by 20% to 500 parts per million and how ocean conditions affect the dispersal of plastic pollution at the surface.

The device can create winds up to 63 mph and waves up to 3 feet at water temperatures ranging from just below freezing to nearly 90 degrees.

The Scripps Ocean Atmosphere Research Simulator, or SOARS, took five years to design and build after the National Science Foundation awarded $2.8 million for its construction with the rest of the $4 million total cost being supplied by UC San Diego.

“This is about the future,” said oceanographer Grant Deane, who is the principal investigator for the project. “This is about what choices we are going to make as a species on the planet over the next 10 years and 20 years and 30 years.”

“We can’t make those choices well if we don’t understand the consequences of our actions,” he added. “We need to understand the complexity of the world. And we need a whole community of scientists and people to do that. SOARS is a call to action and that’s why we built it.”

SOARS is expected to continue testing and commissioning this winter, then become available to researchers from Scripps and around the world in January 2022.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.