Sarah Hughes is part-time assistant branch secretary, Scottish Government branch and part-time oceanographer at Marine Scotland.
Prospect is the main trade union representing marine professionals – so if you work in the marine sector find out more about joining us.
Studying the Scottish seas to understand global climate change
I am a physical oceanographer who advises and informs government about the impacts of climate change in the marine environment. Specifically, as a civil servant for the Scottish Government, I focus on the seas around Scotland.
Currently, I’m preparing a revamped version of the Scottish Ocean Climate Status Report. This will be a public document full of information and data about how the seas around Scotland are changing. The changes may be related to the weather, ocean process or long-term climate drivers.
Marine Scotland repeats a set of measurements in the Faroe-Shetland channel, north of Scotland, three times every year. The Faroe-Shetland channel is important in the transfer of water between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. Its variability is an important diagnostic for global ocean circulation.
Our measurements began in 1893 and have continued since then, making the dataset one of the longest ocean times-series in the world. The data is a rare and valuable contribution to our understanding of long term, global climate change.
Of course, it makes little sense to try and understand Scotland’s seas in isolation. I also work with international colleagues, to jointly prepare an annual report on the state of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Pictured: Sarah preparing information tags to go onto the trackers of a set of ocean drifters – the aim is to measure current flow around Shetland. Yes, they are being fitted into tupperware boxes, but sometimes we have to be practical and get by on a budget.
Pictured: Sarah (on the right) sampling for salinity from a water bottle that has just collected water from the bottom of the Faroe-Shetland channel. We only seem to take photos on the beautiful days, so you might get the wrong impression of what it is normally like out there.