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Ocean Research


November 2012 Issue

Glider Collects Gulf Coast Data For Weather Forecasters
Scientists launched this summer an iRobot Corp. (Bedford, Massachusetts) Seaglider approximately 24.1 kilometers east of Shell Oil Co.'s (Houston, Texas) Auger platform, near Flower Garden Banks, in the Gulf of Mexico.

The research is a partnership among Shell, the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System and NOAA's National Data Buoy Center (NDBC).

The iRobot Seaglider will collect data on temperature, salinity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, dissolved organic matter, pressure, turbidity, chlorophyll, and backscatter down to 1,000 meters in various parts of the northern Gulf of Mexico. The NDBC pilots this glider and has collected more than 250 profiles of data. Although NDBC has piloted Wave Gliders in the past, this is the first profiling glider operated by NDBC.

NOAA and Shell signed an agreement in 2008 to collaborate in the Gulf of Mexico to provide data for weather forecasters and the National Hurricane Center. This effort with the Seaglider emerged from the initial agreement.

Canadian Government Invests $32 Million in Ocean Science
Canada's government announced in October it will provide $32.8 million in support to Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) through the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

ONC, an initiative of the University of Victoria, manages a network of underwater sensors off Canada's West Coast. These sensors record and broadcast, in real-time data, images from the seafloor to analyze earthquakes, research fish populations and predict the movement of tsunamis.

First AUV Expedition to Explore Deep-Sea Atlantic Canyons Starts
The first scientific expedition to explore the ecology of two Atlantic seamounts located approximately 200 miles southeast of Cape Cod, as well as investigate several nearby Georges Bank undersea canyons, launched in October from Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

Using the Waitt Institute's two Catalyst AUVs, which are REMUS 6000 AUVs manufactured by Hydroid Inc. (Pocasset, Massachusetts), the two-week expedition will explore and catalog marine life.

The AUVs will survey areas down to about 3,000 meters. While human-occupied submersibles and ROVs guided via a cable from the surface have been used in these areas in the past, they are limited in speed and the area they can cover. The Waitt Institute AUVs are designed to move at high speeds of 3 to 4 nautical miles per hour.

This expedition will first focus on the ecology of Physalia and Mytilus seamounts, two of only four seamounts found in U.S. Atlantic waters that are essentially extinct, drowned volcanoes. The group then plans to explore in and around a number of undersea canyons that cut into the southern edge of the Georges Bank fishing grounds.

These are part of a longer chain of submarine canyons that are carved into the continental shelf, stretching from the northern tip of North Carolina to eastern Canada.

Submarine canyons and seamounts are considered hot spots of ocean life, fueled by strong, localized currents and upwellings that help transport food in and carry waste away.

The project is a partnership between the Waitt Institute and Natural Resources Defense Council, involving scientists from the University of Connecticut and an AUV operations team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

OceansAdvance, Brazilian School Partner on Technology Transfer
OceansAdvance Inc. (St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada) and Universidade Federal do Rio Grande (FURG) of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, signed in October a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on research and development, technical exchange and technology transfer focused in the ocean and marine sector.

OceansAdvance represents the Newfoundland and Labrador ocean technology cluster, and FURG is affiliated with marine industries and industrial development organizations.

The parties, who have a mutual interest in the Arctic, have agreed to collaborate on best practices on cluster development, human resource strategies and stimulating joint research and technology development activities.

RV Polarstern Films Arctic Depths Down to 4,400 Meters
The RV Polarstern returned to Bremerhaven, Germany, in October from the Central Arctic expedition IceArc, which employed new technologies to film and photograph life in and below the ice down to 4,400 meters depth, after two months.

Since its departure from Tromsø, Norway, in August, Polarstern traveled some 12,000 kilometers and conducted research at 306 stations. These included nine ice stations where the ship moored to an ice floe for several days to examine the ice, the water beneath it and the bottom of the sea.

With a new type of under-ice trawl, the researchers were able for the first time to conduct large-scale investigations of the communities living directly on the lower side of the Arctic pack ice.

The sea-ice physicists from the Alfred Wegener Institute also used an under-ice robot to record the light incidence and distribution of algae on the lower side of the ice. They were able to detect the diatom Melosira artica in high concentrations also under the first-year ice in the central basin of the Arctic. These single-cell algae can produce meter-long chains and form dense accumulations beneath the ice. Photos from the deep sea have shown that the algae largely dropped to the bottom of the sea as a result of the melting ice. The researchers reported they found polar cod, a species adapted to living below the ice, in the net almost every time.

The researchers determined that the thick multiyear sea ice in the area of investigation had declined further. With the EM-Bird, an electromagnetic sensor for recording the thickness of sea ice, an area of 3,500 kilometers was measured from a helicopter. As early as July, the Siberian shelves including the Laptev Sea were free from ice, whereas in the summer of 2011 Polarstern had still encountered multiyear ice in this region. This means that the volume of ice has greatly reduced by melting. The freshwater content of the sea surface has increased as a result of ice melt.


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