Autonomous Underwater Vehicles are only now being marketed as robust commercial vehicles for many industries, and of these vehicles underwater gliders are becoming the new tool for oceanographers. Satellites have provided scientists and marine specialists with measurements of the sea surface such as temperature since the late 1970s, and data via subsurface oceanographic moorings since the 1950's. As stated by David Smeed of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, England, that "gliders are one of the technological developments that are changing the way we observe the ocean and it is very exciting for us to be at the forefront of their application in ocean and climate science" (Douglas, 2008).
The Southampton team deployed a Slocum Glider on the 16th of September 2008 in the Eastern Atlantic (launched from the Canary Islands with the co-operation of the Instituto Canario de Ciencias Marinas (the Canarian Institute of Marine Science) with the aim of determining the interaction between oceans and climate and the intent to improve the ability of the scientist to detect signs of rapid climate change. That vehicle is expected to travel 2,300 km over 90 days with a minimum of 1,000 profiles collecting temperature, conductivity (salinity), depth and current in its 1,000 meter depth range. The data retrieved will be made available to "the 'Rapid-Watch' program that monitors the meridional overturning circulation of the Atlantic. Also known as the 'Atlantic heat conveyor' this is the system of ocean currents that transports heat polewards, thereby influencing European climate" (Douglas, 2008).
The Rapid-Watch program is tasked to observe the Atlantic through 2014 with oceanographic moorings, ship observations and now autonomous underwater gliders. As stated by David Smeed, "the Rapid-Watch program is teaching us a great deal about how to monitor and evaluate changes in the ocean and climate. Underwater gliders are going to expand our capability to make these important measurements and enable us to get the data we need more efficiently."
Another important initiative is the "The European Gliding Observatories (EGO)
initiative," which is composed of oceanography teams from France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom (but not restricted to European partners only) who are interested in developing the use of gliders for ocean observations throughout the world. More information concerning this initiative and becoming a member can be found at < https://www.locean-ipsl.upmc.fr/gliders/EGO/ >
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