In the late 1980s scientists at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) were looking for a way to meaningfully contribute to the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS). This international program involved the creation and maintenance of monitoring stations around the world, each collecting vast amounts of data on dissolved carbon in the ocean and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. BIOS was already home to Hydrostation S (an ocean data time-series station established in 1954), but the scientists envisioned a time-series station that could provide long-term measurements from the open ocean off Bermuda.
The establishment of Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) in 1988 gave BIOS scientists precisely this and, in the years to come, an ongoing source of collaborative research projects, as well as international recognition as an important source of data for oceanographic studies and climate change models. From the outset, the BATS program involved routine sampling of the northwestern Sargasso Sea on a biweekly to monthly basis. The primary objective of the core BATS program was, and continues to be, an improved understanding of the time-variable processes and mechanisms that control the biogeochemical cycling of carbon and related elements in the surface ocean.
By the end of its first decade, BATS supported 60 different research groups conducting time-series projects near Bermuda, with many scientists using BATS data to make fundamental discoveries about the cycling of trace metals and their relationship with ocean biology, the role of eddies in the cycling of nutrients, and the role of the ocean in the global carbon cycle. BATS also served as a valuable springboard for young scientists, allowing them to utilize extensive data sets as platforms for novel research and the preliminary investigations required to obtain larger research grants.
A quarter century later, BATS has moved beyond descriptions of seasonal and interannual variability to in-depth examination of multi-year trends and potential controls. Today, BATS scientists are using the time-series data to investigate three long-standing biogeochemical questions about the Sargasso Sea:
- Why is there a discrepancy between biological and geochemical estimates of carbon export production?
- What supports the seasonal drawdown of carbon dioxide in the absence of detectable nutrients?
- What are the sources of the elevated nitrate to phosphate ratio in the seasonal thermocline?
BATS continues to play an important role in providing scientists around the world with oceanographic data for both regional and global studies. As in its early years, the BATS program recruits promising young scientists and offers ongoing opportunities for mentored research, international collaboration, and the development of highly sought-after scientific talent. BIOS looks forward to what the next 25 years hold for the BATS program and how its data will be used to shed light upon complex global ocean and climate change processes.