Friday, March 13, 2015

U.S. Navy getting creative

Nice pack or ice pack?
Dr. Martin Jeffries, Office of Naval Research in the Arctic and Global Prediction section, says the Navy is worried about, and predicting, a lack of sea ice in the Arctic before the middle of this century.

Oh, no, I can hear you thinking...Dead polar bears, more global cooling, or is it warming, or is it cooling that confused things so it got warmer? Headache!

But no--I am not going to harangue you about this, although I am going to touch on how "creative" the Navy was in gathering this info.

Between March and Oct of 2014, the Office of Naval Research threw in with France, South Korea, and the UK to do a field study of the seaward-edge of the icepack north of Alaska. For "unsalty" types--this is where the frozen ocean meets the open ocean.

Sounds pretty nippy, warming aside. So the scientists spent little time there. Instead, they deployed a wave buoy--which floats around and detects ocean surface waves that are breaking up the icepack.

This thing--straight out of Star Wars--also has a webcam for keeping an eye on fracturing, melting, and freezing ice. All this data is beamed to a satellite. The buoy runs on batteries, with solar backup.

Why do this with robots? Well, not just to save the toes of scientists from frostbite. The idea is to make things more predictable for vessels going into the area on a continuing basis.

In 2009, also, the Navy issued the Navy Arctic Roadmap, outlining safe operation of ships and capabilities in changing ice conditions,

My former brother-in-law was in the Coast Guard and did two tours on icebreakers to the other pole, Antartica. They picked up biologists in Chile and those stalwarts counted seals and dissected some to see what they were eating--all while standing in subzero conditions and wind gazing at sea mammals through binoculars.

Maybe a nice robot next time?

For more info and some pix-- put this in your Google.