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Ocean Research


October 2012 Issue

Primary Node Installation Complete for Cabled Part of OOI
The Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) program's Regional Scale Nodes (RSN) team completed in August the installation of the primary nodes for the cabled component of the OOI infrastructure in the Northeast Pacific when primary node 3B, the final of seven nodes, was deployed from TE SubCom's (Morristown, New Jersey) cable ship Dependable.

The primary nodes are main connection points on the network. Once connected to the cable, each will provide two-way communication between land and sea, and will supply instrument arrays with up to 10 gigabits per second of communications bandwidth and 8 kilowatts of power.

The OOI regional cabled observatory will establish an interactive network of ocean-observing sensors, instruments and moorings connected by 900 kilometers of electro-optical cable. Data will be collected by instruments from the sea surface to the seafloor, transmitted by cable and publicly available in near-real time via the Internet.

The RSN cables extend to two main study sites: Hydrate Ridge, at the base of the Oregon continental margin, and Axial Seamount, located 500 kilometers west on the Juan de Fuca Ridge. The cables also will serve the cabled moorings of the OOI's Coastal Scale Nodes Oregon Line at the Endurance Array site. Two primary nodes are installed at Hydrate Ridge, two at Axial Seamount, two on the Endurance Line and one in the middle of the Juan de Fuca plate, a placeholder with minimal internal electronics that will be available for future network expansion.

The RSN will be the first U.S. regional cabled observatory. The infrastructure is designed to operate continuously for 25 years and is scheduled to be operational in 2014.

Research Cruise Sails in Atlantic To Collect Ocean Salinity Data
Scientists for the Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS) left in September on the RV Knorr from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts to travel to the Atlantic surface salinity maximum, located halfway between the Bahamas and the western coast of North Africa. They will spend about three weeks on site deploying autonomous gliders, buoys and UUVs, and taking salinity, temperature and other measurements before sailing to the Azores to complete the voyage in October. Some instruments and platforms will remain in place for at least a year, providing scientists with data on seasonal variations in salinity.

The ocean instruments will complement data from NASA's salinity-sensing instrument aboard the Aquarius space observatory and be integrated into real-time computer models. The result will be a 3D picture of how salinity fluctuates in the ocean's upper layers and how these variations are related to shifts in rainfall patterns around the planet.

Researchers will investigate to what extent salinity trends signal change in evaporation and precipitation over the ocean versus the ocean's own processes. The acceleration of the water cycle in the past 50 years could exacerbate droughts and floods around the planet, although some climate models predict less dramatic changes in the global water cycle. As global temperatures rise, evaporation increases, altering the frequency, strength and distribution of rainfall around the planet with far-reaching implications for life on Earth.

The multiyear SPURS mission will deploy multiple instruments in different regions of the ocean. A second SPURS expedition in 2015 will investigate low-salinity regions where there is a high input of freshwater, such as the mouth of a large river or the rainy belts near the equator.

Decompression Chamber for Deep Dives Tested Successfully
Ocean Opportunity's (Providence, Rhode Island) expedition leader Michael Lombardi and his colleague Jeff Godfrey of the University of Connecticut returned this summer from an expedition to the Exumas, Bahamas, where they successfully deployed an experimental undersea habitat to aid in exploration of the deep coral reef. Dives were conducted at more than 400 feet depth. This marked the first use of a self-sustained habitat free of surface support for assisting wet divers during decompression following deep scientific dives.

The portable habitat was a year-long development by Lombardi's team and Subsalve USA Corp. (North Kingstown, Rhode Island). Several hours of decompression can be carried out in the structure, which will significantly extend the range of exploratory marine science, Lombardi said.

Numerous images, samples and specimens have been gathered since 2010, which are being evaluated by project collaborators. A fish collected was called a new species by researchers at the American Museum of Natural History and the City University of New York.'

The underwater habitat will continue being developed with modifications this fall and winter to prepare for deeper, long excursions on the deep reef, to exceed 500 feet.

Arctic Risks Require Technology, Preparedness and Cooperation
Det Norske Veritas (Høvik, Norway) and the Fridtjof Nansen Institute in Norway have released a study, entitled 'Energy and the Environment ' Arctic Resource Development, Risks and Responsible Management,' that looks into crucial risk management issues and pinpoints a need for improved technology, oil spill preparedness and close cooperation between authorities, industry and society to safely develop Arctic resources.

The bulk of the region's resources are under the jurisdictions of Russia, Norway, the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Greenland. Climate change effects are dramatic in the Arctic, and melting sea ice is opening it up for further petroleum exploration. Interest in the region is growing rapidly, but there is no race for resources, the study found. It is in the interests of all major stakeholders to adhere to the United Nations Law of the Sea and cooperate through international bodies, such as the Arctic Council, according to the study.

The study also suggests performance-based safety regulations and enforcements, similar to those in Norway, Canada and the U.K., rather than a prescriptive regime for regulating the Arctic environment, institutional architecture, fisheries, shipping, and oil and gas.


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