Saturday, December 8, 2018

Bathymetry in Australia

Flythrough movie of Gifford Marine Park, which is located 600 km east of Brisbane, Australia.
The park is situated about halfway along the Lord Howe Rise seamount chain on the western flank of the Lord Howe Rise. 
Seamounts along this chain formed from Miocene volcanism via a migrating magma source (“hotspot”) after the opening of the Tasman Sea. 
Two large, flat-topped volcanic seamounts dominate the park. 
Their gently sloping summits have accumulated veneers of sediment, which in places have formed fields of bedforms. 
Steep cliffs, debris and large mass movement scars encircle each seamount, and contrast with the lower gradient abyssal plains from which they rise. 
Spanning over 3 km of ocean depths, the seamounts are likely to serve multiple and important roles as breeding locations, resting areas, navigational landmarks or supplementary feeding grounds for some cetaceans (e.g. humpback whales, sperm whales). 
They may also act as important aggregation points for other highly migratory pelagic species. 
The bathymetry shown here was collected on two surveys - the first in 2007 by Geoscience Australia and the second in 2017 by Geoscience Australia in collaboration with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. 
The Gifford Marine Park has also been the focus of a study undertaken by the Marine Biodiversity Hub as part of the National Environmental Science Program.

Flythrough movie of Perth Canyon Marine Park, southwest Western Australia showing seafloor bathymetry and marine life that occurs within the park.
The park encompasses a diversity of geomorphic features, ranging from gently sloping soft sediment plains to near-vertical towering cliffs of exposed bedrock.
This geodiversity extends from the head of Perth Canyon at the shelf break to the slope-confined submarine canyons that dissect the lower continental slope.
Spanning almost 4.5 km of ocean depths, the Perth Canyon has a significant influence on the local ecosystem across the food chain.
The size and location of the canyon is such that it promotes upwelling from the deep ocean, leading to plankton blooms that attract seasonal aggregations of larger pelagic fish, including whales.
Over geological time, the canyon has evolved to provide extensive areas of potential seabed habitat suitable for deep-sea corals and sponges.
The Perth Canyon has been the focus of a study undertaken by the Marine Biodiversity Hub as part of the National Environmental Science Program.

Flythrough movie of Bremer Commonwealth Marine Reserve, southwest Western Australia showing bathymetry of Bremer Canyon, Hood Canyon, Henry Canyon and Knob Canyon.
These canyons are part of the Albany Group of 81 canyons that extend along the continental margin of southwest Australia reaching to water depths of 4000 m.
The Bremer Canyon is one of the few canyons in the group that have incised into the continental shelf, providing a pathway for upwelling of nutrient rich waters to the shelf.
This upwelling is thought to form the basis for aggregations of marine life around the Bremer and adjacent canyons, including orca whales and giant squid.
The Bremer offshore region has been the focus of a study undertaken in 2017 by the Marine Biodiversity Hub as part of the National Environmental Science Program.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The new American weather model shone during Hurricane Lane

Satellite view of Hurricane Lane on Aug. 21.
(Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies)

From WashingtonPost by Jason Samenow

It’s well established that the European weather model, on average, produces the most accurate weather forecasts in the world.
For years, the American model, run by the National Weather Service, has ranked third-best.

The also-ran status of the American model, known as the Global Forecast System (GFS), has caught the attention of Congress, which has appropriated money to the Weather Service to improve our nation’s weather modeling on multiple occasions.
In addition, the Trump administration has stated that building the best prediction model in the world is a “top priority.”
[Trump administration official says it’s a ‘top priority’ to improve U.S. weather forecasting model]

A new analysis of model performance during Hurricane Lane, which unloaded historic amounts of rain on Hawaii’s Big Island, shows that the Weather Service may be making progress.

The Weather Service has developed a new version of the GFS, known as the FV3 (which stands for Finite Volume Cubed-Sphere dynamical core), which it touts as “its next-generation global prediction system.”
While still considered experimental, the FV3 produced the most consistently accurate forecasts of Lane’s track.

 Second only to Katrina in damage cost, Harvey hit the Texas coast as expected.
It stalled for four days, dumped over 60 inches of rain and caused severe flooding

Despite warnings that Maria would hit Puerto Rico, emergency responders were not prepared.
The entire island lost power, clean water and cell service
Five days before hitting Florida, models showed Irma going east.
As it veered west, so too did evacuation orders.
All told, a third of Floridians were mandated to leave 

We obtained a Weather Service chart displaying the track errors for each of the models at different points in time.
Track errors tend to be large for forecasts of the storm’s position several days into the future but grow smaller with time.

(National Weather Service)

NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Research Team leader, Shian-Jiann Lin, Ph.D, is behind the new FV3-powered GFDL model.
The GFDL model is designed to improve the global weather forecast model by enhancing short-term forecasts and long-term climate prediction.
For more information about the GFDL model and how it will improve the Global Forecast System

The FV3 produced the most accurate forecasts (or smallest track errors) made four (96 hours) and five (120 hours) days into the future, and was neck and neck with the European model and National Hurricane Center forecasts within 72 hours.

The European model, which is run by the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, United Kingdom, had large errors in its forecasts four and five days out but exhibited the skill it is known for within 72 hours as the top performer.

The U.K. Met model, which is the second-most-accurate model in the world and is run by the U.K. Met Office in Exeter, trailed the performance of the European, Hurricane Center and FV3 model forecasts at all times.

 National Weather Service

The current, operational version of the American GFS model had just about the worst forecast performance at every step.
The related American HWRF model, which is a specialized model for hurricanes, also performed poorly, ranking second to last.
Some of its input data come from the GFS, which explains why both models performed comparably poor.

Although the FV3’s results were very promising for Hurricane Lane, they reflect just one very limited case.
To be convinced that this new modeling system might close the gap with the European model, we will need to see such performance repeated storm after storm and in everyday weather situations, from the tropics to the poles.

The target date for the FV3 to become operational is late 2019.

Links :

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The final frontier: who owns the oceans and their hidden treasures?

From Reuters by Zoe Tabary and Claudio Accheri (see Place)

Ransom-hungry pirates, polar explorers, offshore oil giants - the race for the riches of the world’s final frontier is on.

From Thailand to Alaska, the battle to tap ever-dwindling resources from minerals to fish is spurring new conflicts over who has the right to the treasures of the deep seas.
As India, China and Brazil seek new sources of cobalt, copper and nickel to build the gadgets demanded by their booming populations, they are preparing to mine a new realm - the dark depths of the ocean.
Over the next decade India will spend more than $1 billion to develop and test deep-sea technologies - including human-piloted exploration submarines - in the Indian Ocean that could give access to once inaccessible mineral riches up to 6.8 miles (11 km) under water.
“We have to depend on ocean resources sooner or later ... there is no other way,” said Gidugu Ananda Ramadass, head of India’s deep-sea mining project at the National Institute of Ocean Technology in the southern city of Chennai.
But mining the seas - home to the vast majority of life on Earth - carries huge risks and could cause irreversible damage to the environment, campaigners warn.

Oceans - which scientists say are less understood than the moon or Mars - cover more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, yet less than 20 percent of their seafloor has been mapped or observed, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
And what lies below the waves is worth trillions of dollars.
The so-called “blue economy” of marine resources is expected to contribute $3 trillion to the world’s GDP by 2030 - equivalent to the size of the UK economy - up from $1.5 trillion in 2010, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

But from overfishing, to a rush to mine deep seas, to slavery on fishing boats, the world’s oceans are a source of growing dispute, not least over who should get access to them.

Experts say oceans are a neglected area of global governance despite the United Nations’ 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 193 member states agreeing in 2015 to a global goal to sustainably manage and protect marine resources.
“Oceans’ governance is the classic public good challenge,” said Dominic Waughray, head of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Global Public Goods.

Smart rules are essential to keep oceans healthy - but because nobody owns them, “we have a real problem”, he said.
Liz Karan, senior manager for the high seas at Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-profit organization, said existing regulations were patchy and had struggled to protect ecosystems in international waters.
But a proposed U.N. treaty to protect ocean biodiversity - and prevent over-exploitation - could change that.
Negotiations on a legally binding treaty – which would cover the high seas, or ocean areas that extend beyond national boundaries capped at 200 nautical miles from coasts – began in September and aim to reach an agreement by 2020.
But government and U.N. action are only part of the answer, experts caution.
“Governments are good at setting targets, but to really get things done you’re going to need more than hoping U.N. agencies alone can fix this,” said Waughray.
He said technology and monitoring tools to enforce the would-be treaty would be crucial.

So who are the main players controlling Earth’s final frontier?
And how will the global hunt for resources affect the communities who now depend on the seas to survive?

How can Senegal combat illegal fishing?

Fishing under threat

From fast-expanding tourist resorts to disputes over maritime borders, fishing communities are finding their main source of income increasingly under threat.

In southern Thailand, a tourism boom is pitting the Chao Lay, or people of the sea, against land developers, while marine conservation efforts also limit their traditional fishing grounds.
“Our lives have changed. We have to go further and dive deeper to catch fish, and that is affecting our health,” said Ri Fongsaithan, an Urak Lawoi community elder.
Some Chao Lay have taken their plight to the courts, fighting eviction from their homes.
According to Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, the Chao Lay “generally do not assert ownership rights because they believe that land and water should not be owned or controlled by one person, but rather shared by many”.

Maritime borders between Nicaragua and Colombia until 2012

The legal fight over the sea is also playing out at national levels.
The Latin American nations of Colombia and Nicaragua, for instance, have for decades fought over a cluster of islands in the western Caribbean - and the fishing rights around them.
In 2012, a ruling by the International Court of Justice redrew the maritime borders around the archipelago of San Andres, Providencia and Santa Catalina in favor of Nicaragua, reducing the expanse of sea belonging to Colombia.
The loss of waters – and of income – has hit the islands’ artisanal fishermen hard, with some saying the money they make from fishing cannot even pay for the fuel to power their boats.
“Our territory at the end of the day is the ocean,” said Erlid Arroyo, secretary of agriculture and fishing at the governor’s office in San Andres. He estimated lost income from the court ruling at “millions and millions of dollars”.
But the crisis has spurred a rethink of the island’s fishing industry, he said, with the government training fishermen to catch fish in other areas and make more of their catch.
These islands’ underwater riches might not last, however.
In the last few decades, the oceans have undergone unprecedented warming while currents have shifted.

From the waters off the east coast of the United States to the coasts of West Africa, the changes are causing fish and other sea life to seek out new waters - leaving the communities that depend on them facing disruption as a result.

For other communities, fishing regulations present the most potent threat.
For decades the Inupiaq, a Native Alaskan group living north of the Arctic Circle, have argued that international limits on subsistence whaling were not big enough to meet their food needs.
“They controlled what we could hunt and what we could eat,” said Roy Nageak, a retired whaling captain, referring to when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) set quotas on catching bowhead whales in 1977 to protect existing stocks.
The Inupiaq hired scientists to convince the IWC that whale stocks were still healthy and to increase the quota, said Crawford Patkotak, an Inupiaq whaling captain.
Then ensued a constant struggle to negotiate and renew whaling quotas with the IWC - which expired every five-six years - the indigenous group said.
Inupiaq leaders welcomed the International Whaling Commission’s decision in September to reaffirm their shared quota of 56 whales per year, increase the number of unused strikes permitted to carry over into the next year, and to renew aboriginal quotas automatically.
“We’ll now be able to hunt in peace without the anxiety of worrying about an expiring quota,” said Patkotak.

 Main marine mineral deposits.
Source: Hein et al.
Digging deep

Much of the quest for ocean resources, however, lies not near its surface but in its depths.
Technological advances and growing demand for minerals used in consumer electronics have fueled a rush to mine the deep seas.

When Oscar-winning director James Cameron ventured in 2012 on a record-breaking solo dive to the deepest-known place on Earth in the Pacific Ocean, he described a flat, desolate landscape, 50 times larger than the Grand Canyon.

UK Seabed Resources, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin UK, in partnership with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, has received a licence and contract to explore a 58,000 sq kilometre area of the Pacific for mineral-rich polymetallic nodules.

But new technology like autonomous robots and deep-diving submarines could allow scientists to unearth treasures like copper, nickel and cobalt.
Resource-hungry countries are racing ahead in the hunt for minerals, with India planning to explore a 75,000-square-km (29,000-square miles) area of the Indian Ocean - equal to about 2 percent of the country’s size.
“We are exploring Mars, we are exploring the moon. Why don’t we explore our own oceans?” asked Ramadass, of India’s National Institute of Ocean Technology.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, is seeking minerals in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
And Brazil has won rights to explore the Rio Grande Rise off its southeastern coast, in the southern Atlantic Ocean.
“The more (natural) resources are exhausted on the continent, the more interesting marine mining will become,” said Lauro Julio Calliari, an oceanographer at Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.

But, with little of the deep ocean mapped or explored, environmentalists worry about the potential loss of species not yet well understood - or even recorded.
Sediment plumes and disturbance caused by mining could wipe out habitats, including for slow-growing corals and fish, said Richard Mahapatra, managing editor of the New Delhi-based science and environment magazine Down To Earth.

In the longer run, disturbing oceans, which absorb carbon dioxide and heat, could affect how they regulate the world’s climate, he added.
“We should not rush (deep sea mining). Otherwise we will head towards another disaster,” he said.

The hunt for yet another ocean resource - offshore oil - could have disastrous consequences for marine wildlife, campaigners warn.

Last December, Italian oil producer Eni began drilling a new well in U.S. waters off the north coast of Alaska – the first company to drill in the area since 2015, and a move warily eyed by indigenous communities.
Arnold Brower Jr., executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC), worries that potentially devastating oil spills could affect whale food sources, including krill.
“Of course we’re concerned because we’ve seen the mess down in the Gulf of Mexico - BP’s blowout,” he said, referring to the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig that exploded in 2010, causing the worst spill in history.

The Coast Guard and other Law Enforcement Agencies of Bangladesh deserve respect and reverence to bring such trafficking incidents into concern.
To intercept and detect such incident is not an easy task.
Small human trafficking vessels enter into the territorial water of Bangladesh at night.
These vessels then take people and cross the territorial water boundary at night. 
o, it is very difficult to detect such vessels at sea.
Photo Source: The Wall Street Journal

Slavery at sea

Determining who owns or has the right to the ocean’s resources raises another question: Who should police them?

The multi-billion-dollar seafood industry has come under scrutiny – particularly in Thailand – after investigations showed widespread slavery, human trafficking and violence on fishing boats and in onshore processing facilities.
Experts said slavery was also rife on fishing vessels in Cape Town’s luxurious waterfront in South Africa.

Part of the problem stems from a lack of oversight on fishermen’s working conditions on the high seas, said Brandt Wagner, head of the transport and maritime unit at the International Labour Organization, a U.N. agency.

The main international convention regulating crew safety and conditions on fishing vessels - called the Cape Town Agreement - was adopted in 2012 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a U.N. agency.
But only 10 countries have signed it, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts, a non-profit.
NASA flies Osiris-Rex within 12 miles of asteroid
“So the international law which is most needed to make sure the fishing vessels are safe is not yet in force,” said Wagner.

Dane du Plessis, with South African charity Biblia, has tried to identify and help exploited fishermen when their boats dock in the port of Cape Town.
“People ignore what’s going on because these fishermen, they’re poor, they’re uneducated,” he said,
Migrant fishermen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation they were routinely abused by employers, including being punched, forced to drink dirty water and subjected to racist slurs.

Experts hope that could change with stricter enforcement of fishing regulation.
In May a Taiwanese trawler was detained – and later released – in Cape Town after crew complaints about working conditions.
The detention was the first under the International Labour Organization’s Fishing Convention , which seeks to improve fishermen’s working conditions.
Du Plessis worries, however, that efforts to identify victims of slavery aboard fishing vessels are “only scratching the surface”.
“I believe there’s worse things happening,” he said.
“The ocean is so vast - and what happens there, none of us will know.”

Authorities are trying to police another kind of criminal wreaking havoc on the seas - pirates.
While piracy has decreased worldwide in the past decade, the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa has become an increasing target for pirates who steal cargo and demand ransoms, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Ships in or around Nigerian waters were the target of a series of piracy-related incidents last year, with 10 kidnappings involving 65 crew members, the IMB said in a report in January.

We’ve mapped other planets to more detail than we have our own oceans.
How close are we to a complete ocean map?

Mapping the unknown

Crucial to protecting oceans as pressure mounts is understanding what lies at the bottom, experts say.
A U.N.-backed initiative, called Seabed 2030, is trying to do that by pooling data from around the world to produce a publicly available map of the entire ocean seafloor by 2030.
“Can you imagine operating on the land without a map, or doing anything without a map?” asked Larry Mayer, director of the U.S.-based Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, a research body that develops tools for underwater mapping.
“We depend on having that knowledge of what’s around us - and the same is true for the ocean,” he said.

The project initiated by the Nippon Foundation, a Japanese philanthropic organization, and GEBCO, a non-profit association of ocean experts, aims to improve knowledge of marine biodiversity, predict disasters and protect deep-sea resources.

From underwater drones to crowdsourced data from fishing boats, new technology could drastically speed up the mapping process, researchers said.
“With advanced sonar technology it really is like seeing. I think we’ve come out of the era of being the blind man with the stick,” said Robert Larter, a marine geophysicist at the British Antarctic Survey.

Advances in technology could also help in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, with theft estimated to be worth $23.5 billion a year, experts said.
A range of platforms are tracking fishing on the high seas and in marine reserves, aided by radio and satellite data that transmits vessel locations and movements, allowing authorities to identify illegal behaviour.

But political infighting is a roadblock in the way of data and knowledge-sharing, said Julian Barbiere of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, which is supporting the Seabed 2030 initiative.
Some countries are reluctant to share what they consider strategic data with the project, he said, largely due to national security concerns or because it comes from areas with sensitive geopolitical tensions, such as the disputed South China Sea.
But too much is at stake for countries to hoard data, he said.
“(It) goes back to this principle: the ocean is an international space by definition ... part of the common heritage of mankind,” said Barbiere.

Links :

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

New satellites will use radio waves to spy on ships and planes

A HawkEye 360 data visualization that shows every instance over a month in which a boat turned off its automatic identification system (AIS) for more than 8 hours.
HawkEye 360 claims it's unique not only for its radio-signal-detecting technology, but also artificial-intelligence-powered software the startup has developed to process data. 

From Wired by Sarah Scoles

When a company called HawkEye 360 wanted to test its wares, it gave an employee a strange, deceptive task.
While the worker stood in Virginia, he held the kind of transceiver that ships carry to broadcast their GPS locations.
Usually such a signal would reveal his true position to a radio receiver, but he’d altered the broadcast to spoof his GPS position, making it seem like he was in fact off the coast of Maine.

But his company’s instruments, which in this test were carried by Cessnas flying routes over East Coast waters, picked up on the chicanery.
Now HawkEye 360, the satellite startup that made the detectors, plans to send its first three instruments into space later this month.
Called Pathfinder, the cluster of satellites will work together to locate and make sense of radio emissions beamed up from the ground.
With it, HawkEye 360 gains access to communications information that has mostly been controlled by governments.

The SEAker product provides new Maritime Domain Awareness capabilities.
HawkEye 360 RF-based analytics can help resolve challenges such as dark ship tracking and monitoring of illegal fishing or smuggling.

Lots of companies have launched, or hope to launch, satellites that snap pictures of Earth.
But HawkEye 360 wanted to do something different: scan the planet for its radio-frequency signals instead.
That kind of intelligence has mostly been the domain of militaries and intelligence agencies.
But with ever-cheaper and simpler radio technology, and the relative ease of building small satellites, the time seemed right for private industry to give it a shot.

The company began after Chris DeMay, an expert in radio frequencies who’d spent 14 years working in the intelligence community, attended a conference called SmallSat a few years ago.
He saw all of those picture-taking satellite companies, and realized that the invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum could also be used to monitor the Earth.

 courtesy of Sumitomo

Radio waves come from ships, planes, battlefields, search-and-rescue operations, cell towers, and basically anything that needs to communicate with another thing.
These waves reveal the things’ locations and their character.
Ever more crowded, this spectrum is full of interference and crosstalk.
Maybe a new fleet of satellites could help clear the air, DeMay thought, and understand what was whipping through it unseen, and from where.

 HawkEye 360's three microsatellites that will form its Pathfinder constellation.

HawkEye 360’s first three satellites will fly in formation around 350 miles above Earth, using tiny thrusters to keep their position relative to one another stable.
On board, they will each carry a receiver that collects radio waves coming from Earth—any transmission more powerful than a watt—and then sends information about those waves down to a station on the ground.

Some customers, of which HawkEye 360 currently has 10 in the government sector, are just interested in that data, straight up.
Others, though, want a little more hand-holding.
For them, HawkEye 360 plans to offer more specialized support, answering such questions as, “Whose communications are messing with mine?”

“Our strategy is focused primarily on the US government today,” says John Serafini, HawkEye’s CEO.
With its advisers having done time in the CIA, the NSA, and various defense-related agencies, the company’s initial strategy seems likely to tilt toward spycraft.
It also has a deal with Raytheon, a large defense contractor and one of its main investors, to feed HawkEye data and analysis into Raytheon’s own systems.

 Data from HawkEye 360's airplane-based test of its core technology.
Blue dots show reported locations, based on automatic identification system (AIS) data, while orange dots show radio-frequency-based locations.
Red circles indicate a zone of 95% certainty.

At first, HawkEye 360 will focus on the high seas: illegal fishing, drug trafficking, human trafficking, weapons trafficking.
“That takes place in the open ocean where people think they’re unseen,” says DeMay.
If a ship spoofs its location or identity, HawkEye 360 believes its birds will be able to detect that.
A 2013 report estimated that such spoofing had increased by 59 percent in the two years before.
More recently, ships in the Black Sea were subject to spoofing from the outside; someone else had scrambled their locations.
On top of spotting such spoofs, HawkEye 360’s analytics could identify a target’s rendezvous with relay ships—even if both are “dark.” "We can detect signals it didn’t realize it was transmitting," says DeMay.

After the company picks up different signals from a ship (or a plane), it’s got its fingerprint.
"We can...track it into perpetuity,” says Serafini.

The satellites should also be able to pinpoint distress signals, and, in a disaster, figure out which wireless communications are still working.
HawkEye 360 also plans to thrust itself into "spectrum allocation," or watching who's using which frequencies, almost in real-time.
That kind of monitoring could eventually make spectrum use more on-the-fly (the topic of an ongoing Darpa program): People could pop into bands when they’re silent, not just stare longingly at them.

HawkEye 360 Satellite Concept – each spacecraft is a small approximately 10 kg microsatellite, with roughly 40 x 30 x 20 cm dimensions.

HawkEye 360’s three small satellites are booked to ship out for space on a bigger launch that’s been dubbed the SmallSat Express.
The mere existence of the launch speaks to the space industry's hawkishness on small satellites.
While little satellites normally have to nestle in, as second-class citizens, among bigger orbiters (or book specialized space on a small rocket), a company called Spaceflight Industries bought out the entire payload of one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets and gathered 60-some satellite passengers for a clown-car rideshare.
Currently slated to launch on November 19, these dozens of satellites will take the ride of their lives together, shaking and pulling big Gs until they get to space.
Then they will cut loose, disperse to their desired orbits, to see if they can do the big jobs for which they were built.

Links :

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Rolls-Royce demonstrates fully autonomous passenger ferry in Finland

Rolls Royce announce in partnership with Finferries to have demonstrated the world's first fully remote and autonomous ferry

From VentureBeat by Paul Sawers

Rolls-Royce has publicly demonstrated what it calls the “world’s first fully autonomous ferry” on a trip between Parainen and Nauvo in Finland.

The British company entered a research partnership with Finnish state-owned Finferries back in May, revealing plans to “optimize ship safety and efficiency” through developing and demonstrating autonomous ferry technologies.

SVAN is a demonstration of the world’s first remote and autonomous ferry with a focus on improving the safety and efficiency of vessel operations and supporting the crew.
A collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Finferries; two companies with a common goal to push the boundaries of ship technology.
A ground-breaking achievement and an insight into what the near-future in maritime operations hold and the possibilities they will bring to ship-owners around the world in the era of Ship Intelligence.

The first fruits of this project — which is called SVAN (Safer Vessel with Autonomous Navigation) — have been revealed today after the team conducted around 400 hours of trials in the Turku archipelago using an adapted 53.8-meter Falco car ferry.

“Today’s demonstration proves that the autonomous ship is not just a concept, but something that will transform shipping as we know it,” said Rolls-Royce’s president for commercial marine Mikael Makinen, in a press release.

Rolls-Royce and Finferries: Autodocking in action
Image Credit: Rolls-Royce / Niclas Lundqvist, Yle

Plain sailing

The ferry is loaded with myriad sensors, meshed with artificial intelligence (AI) software to help it identify and avoid objects in its immediate vicinity.

Traveling from Parainen to Nauvo, the Falco ferry operated completely autonomously, but the return journey was controlled remotely from a command center 50 kilometres away in Turku, demonstrating that the ship can be commandeered by a human if required.

Additionally, Rolls-Royce and Finferries demonstrated an “auto-docking” system that basically enables the ferry to alter its speed and course when it’s coming into port.

Falco ferry

“Today marks a huge step forward in the journey toward autonomous shipping and reaffirms exactly what we have been saying for several years, that autonomous shipping will happen,” Makinen added.

see video

“The SVAN project has been a successful collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Finferries and an ideal opportunity to showcase to the world how ship intelligence technology can bring great benefits in the safe and efficient operation of ships.”

Captain Tuumas Mikkola on Falco's virtual bridge located some 30km away from the ferry in a Finferries' office in Turku.
Swimming elk the only challenge for the AI system monitoring obstacles en route. 
Image: Niclas Lundqvist / Yle

Planes, trains, and autonomous ferries

While rarely a day goes by without self-driving cars making the headlines, there has been a quiet push to bring autonomy to other modes of transport, including planes, trains, and, indeed, sea-faring vessels.

Back in 2016, news emerged of an autonomous unmanned warship called Sea Hunter, which was developed by research agency DARPA, while the following year a new crewless cargo ship called the Yara Birkeland was announced out of Norway — though it isn’t expected to go into full operation without a crew until 2020.
A few months back, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NNTU) also carried out trials of a tiny electric driverless passenger ferry.

Elsewhere, Rolls-Royce recently announced a partnership with Intel as part of a grand plan to bring self-guided cargo ships to the world’s seas by 2025.

With technology and automotive giants such as Alphabet’s Waymo and Volvo continuing to improve and iterate on their self-driving car smarts, we are now starting to see the early commercial implementations of all that groundwork.
Last month, for example, Volvo announced its first commercial self-driving trucks will be used in the mining industry, while Waymo is gearing up to launch an autonomous taxi service with no human in the driver seat.

These efforts will undoubtedly continue to raise concerns about implications for human employment, but the technology and automotive companies share a core counter-argument: safety.

“As a modern ship owner, our main goal in this cooperation has been on increasing safety in marine traffic, as this is beneficial for both the environment and our passengers,” added Finferries CEO Mats Rosin.
“But we are also equally excited about how this demonstration opens the door to the new possibilities of autonomous shipping and safety.”

Links :

Monday, December 3, 2018

White Island crater lake water level rising, on course to overflow in 2019

Rising water levels in the crater lake on White Island, New Zealand has climbed 10 meters this year alone.
An overflow in mid-2019 is likely if it continues at the same rate
Image : DigitalGlobe

From Stuff

The water level in the crater lake at White Island has risen about 10 metres this year, and could overflow around mid-2019 if it continues rising at the same rate.

The previous lake was destroyed after an eruption in 2016 that removed about 13 metres of lake floor sediments, GNS Science volcanologist Brad Scott said.

A small crater lake became re-established on the Bay of Plenty island, also known as Whakaari, in January 2018.
This week it was about 10m below the overflow level.

Image : David Wall

About 75 per cent of the rise in lake level was estimated to have come from condensing steam vents under the lake, with the rest from rain, Scott said.

The growing crater lake could cause hydrothermal surface activity as it drowned some of the vents near the lake.
That drowning of vents had led to some steam-driven activity - geysering - but most vents seemed to have drowned relatively quietly.
"This process is not over yet, with some vents still steaming away above lake level," Scott said.

An overflow of the lake could pose a danger to visitors through a large stream flowing across the main crater floor, but there was a low probability of the lake outlet failing, leading to a flood.

Images from a web camera in the west rim of White Island
show the deepening of the crater lake during 2018.

The lake had risen in a similar way three times in the past 15 years, coming close to, but never reaching overflow.
In February-March of 2006 the lake got to within about 1m of overflow, before receding as the lake heated and evaporated.

For now, there was no substantial change in the level of volcanic activity at White Island, Scott said.

White island with the GeoGarage platform (Linz nautical chart)

White Island is in about 48km offshore in the Bay of Plenty.
It is New Zealand's most active cone volcano and has been built up by continuous volcanic activity during the past 150,000 years.
It is also the country's largest volcanic structure, about 70 per cent of it under water.

The island's famous sulphur-green lake, which is as acidic as battery acid, been steadily growing since it became re-established in January.
Photo / GNS Science

Sulphur mining started on the island in 1885, but stopped in 1914 after 11 miners died when part of the crater wall collapsed, and a landslide destroyed the sulphur mine and miners' village.

There was another mining episode in the 1920s.
Images from a web camera in the west rim of White Island show the deepening of the crater lake during 2018.

Digital Terrain Model of the White Island volcano crater floor as of December 2016.
Courtesy of Geonet (Volcanic Alert Bulletin of December 2016).
source : Smithsonian

The island was in eruption from December 1975 to September 2000, during which many collapse and explosion craters developed.
Volcanic ash was emitted for long periods.

That was the island's most active period in hundreds of years. GNS Science said ash and gas plumes rose as high as 10km, lava bombs and blocks were thrown into the sea, and occasionally the glow of red hot rock was visible at night from the Bay of Plenty coast.

A plot showing the rate of filling of the crater lake.
The red dot is the current level.
Image : geonet

There was more activity in 2012 and 2013 and then again in April 2016.
In the latter event hot ash raced across the crater floor.
Scott described it as "basically just sand and gravel; very hot and travelling very fast".

Remnants of sulphur mining efforts on White Island.

Fortunately it happened at night when no one was around.
In many areas of the crater the chance of surviving would have been low, Scott said.
The ash was made up of old lake sediments and crater wall material.

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