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October 2011 Issue

Teams Compete in $1 Million Oil Cleanup X PRIZE Challenge
An X PRIZE challenge to find a better way to capture surface oil spills wrapped up in October after more than two months, with 10 finalist teams testing their devices at the Ohmsett National Oil Spill Response Research and Renewable Energy Facility.

Existing oil-spill skimming technology often picks up more water than oil, a deficiency that became apparent during Deepwater Horizon cleanup efforts.

To become eligible for the $1 million, $300,000 and $100,000 prizes, the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE required each team to capture surface oil at 2,500 gallons per minute with 70 percent efficiency. Testing was in both calm and choppy waters over a 10-hour period.

"What we're doing here, and what makes us feel good about it, is we're giving an incentive to come up with new technology and innovative ways to clean up oil," said Peter Velez, one of the judges in the competition and the global emergency response manager at Shell, one of the competition's sponsors. "Of course, winning $1 million is also an incentive."

The competition, which uses a one-inch-thick layer of oil, began with 300 entries submitted, of which 37 were asked to followed up with detailed proposals. A panel of eight judges narrowed these entries down to the 10 finalists that tested at Ohmsett.

The competing teams were Vor-Tek Recovery Solutions LLC (Fullerton, California), Pacific Petroleum Recovery (Seattle, Washington), Elastec (Carmi, Illinois), CRUCIAL Inc. (Gretna, Louisiana), NOFI (Tromsø, Norway), Enviro Voraxial Technologies Inc. (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Kampers Oil Spill Equipment BV (Puttershoek, Netherlands), Lamor (Lamor, Finland), OilWhale Oy Ltd. (Lielax, Finland) and Norway-based OilShaver.

The final winners will be announced October 11, and an awards ceremony will take place on November 15. For more information, visit www.iprizecleanoceans.org.

Navy Research Laboratory Studies Mixing Processes
To improve understanding of the structure and dynamics of small-scale-to-submesoscale mixing processes over rough, bathymetric features on the continental shelf, members of the oceanography division at the Naval Research Laboratory are leading a measurements program focused on the East Flower Garden Bank in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

The main objective of the expedition is to examine the importance of the topographic-induced processes on shelf-edge circulation on timescales ranging from seasonal to minutes. Another goal is to gather data unique to the East Flower Gardens Bank.

The project is executed in conjunction with a related BOEMRE project, both of which are of high interest following the Deepwater Horizon spill.

Six cruises are planned for the projects: three cruises utilizing the RV Pelican and three cruises utilizing the RV Manta, an 85-foot catamaran. Scientists on the first Pelican cruise in December 2010 deployed moorings to measure the currents and density structure around the East Flower Garden Bank. The moorings are scheduled to take measurements until this December, when they will be recovered.

On a second Pelican cruise this May and June, the moorings were recovered, serviced and redeployed. Scientists also deployed and recovered high-frequency current Barny moorings and temperature-conductivity string moorings, released fluorescein dye to observe mixing and surveyed the area using ScanFish from EIVA a/s (Hasselager, Denmark) and a Kongsberg Maritime (Kongsberg, Norway) REMUS AUV. For more information, visit www.nrl.navy.mil.

Pole-to-Pole Survey Samples Global Greenhouse Gases
A three-year series of research flights from the Arctic to the Antarctic has produced measurements of greenhouse gases and particles in the atmosphere, scientists announced in September.

The field project, known as HIPPO, is enabling researchers to generate the first detailed mapping of the global distribution of gases and particles that affect Earth's climate.

The series of flights, which finished in September, mark a milestone as scientists work toward targeting both the sources of greenhouse gases and the natural processes that draw the gases back out of the atmosphere.

"Tracking carbon dioxide and other gases with only surface measurements has been like snorkeling with a really foggy mask," said Britton Stephens, a scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and one of the principal investigators.

The three-year campaign has relied on the powerful capabilities of a specially equipped Gulfstream V aircraft, owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by NCAR. The research jet, known as the High-Performance Instrumented Airborne Platform for Environmental Research, has a range of about 11,000 kilometers. It is outfitted with a suite of specially designed instruments to sample a range of atmospheric constituents.

The flights have helped scientists compile details about the atmosphere. The research team studied air samples at different latitudes between 150 and 13,750 meters. For more information, visit http://hippo.ucar.edu.

Argo Floats Now Remotely Monitoring Ocean Acidity
Scientists can now remotely monitor the ocean's changing chemistry with help from Argo floats. The new method shows how readings of pH and CO2 of seawater can help scientists understand changes in ocean chemistry.

A U.S.-based research team and their Canadian colleagues developed the new approach by determining the relationships between seawater temperature, oxygen, pH and CO2 from observations collected on previous ship-based expeditions in the region in the last five years.

Geophysical Research Letters published the new method in September. To determine pH and total CO2 content, scientists need measurements of dissolved oxygen concentration.

Not all Argo floats will be able to provide measurements: Only about 10 percent of the floats have the sensors that can measure dissolved oxygen. For more information, visit www.argo.net.



2012:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC
2011:  JAN | FEB | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUG | SEPT | OCT | NOV | DEC

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