Saturday, May 2, 2020

Earth Day 2020 NASA animations

GEOS-5 Modeled Cloud Cover, with labels
This visualization shows cloud cover as modeled by the GEOS-5 atmospheric model, using observations as its input, over the course of three days.
The time period repeats halfway through the animation.
Visualizers: Greg Shirah, Trent L. Schindler (lead)

The camera starts under water off the coast of the Eastern United States showing layers of ocean currents from a computational model called ECCO-2.
The camera slowly pulls back revealing the Gulf Stream, one of the most powerful ocean currents on Earth. The camera continues to pull back revealing NASA's Earth observing fleet.
Ocean currents from the ECCO-2 model: starting underwater, then pulling back to see the Gulf Stream, pulling back farther revealing the Earth observing fleet
Visualizers: Greg Shirah (lead), Horace Mitchell

This visualization shows sea surface temperature (SST) data of the oceans from January 2016 through March 2020.
The data set used is from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Multi-scale Ultra-high Resolution (MUR) Sea Surface Temperature Analysis.
The ocean temperatures are displayed between 0 degrees celcius (C) and 32 degrees C.
Sea Surface Temperature - composited version with all layers included 
Visualizers: Greg Shirah (lead), Horace Mitchell

Links :

Friday, May 1, 2020

GeoCuba : 25th anniversary this Workers' Day

GEOCUBA Business Group celebrates this Workers' Day on the 25th anniversary of its constitution.

GEOCUBA Estudios Marinos, created in 1995 as part of the GEOCUBA Business Group, inherited a vast experience of more than forty years from the Cuban Institute of Hydrography.
Today the company has experienced professionals and technicians in specialties related to the marine environment.

GEOCUBA Estudios Marinos has as its business objective to research, design, execute and market its products and services in the activities of hydrography, oceanography, geology and geophysics, coastal engineering and hydrotechnical works projects, cartography and nautical publications, geoinformatics and spatial data infrastructures, consultancy and training, of maritime and port services, specialized diving, navigation aids and maritime signaling projects, environmental and conservation studies, vulnerability and risk mitigation studies, in addition to providing specialized scientific-technological services, consulting and training, related to the activities of its corporate purpose.

GEOCUBA Estudios Marinos belongs to different national and international professional and scientific organizations and societies.
It is a member of the Hydrographic and Geodesic Service of the Republic of Cuba, which in turn is a member of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) and the Regional Hydrographic Commission of Mesoamerica and the Caribbean Sea (MACHC).

Links :

Fishpeople : Lives transformed by the sea

Fishpeople tells the stories of a unique cast of characters who have dedicated their lives to the sea. Featuring Dave Rastovich, Kimi Werner, Matahi Drollet and more.
Directed by Keith Malloy

Thursday, April 30, 2020

How a record-strong Arctic weather pattern aided a troubled Arctic research expedition

Hoarfrost covers the snow where researchers cross a lagoon in Utqiavik, AK on April 9, 2019.
(Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)

From Washington Post by Maddie Stone

Ship will rendezvous with resupply ships after being blown across the central Arctic Ocean

An unusually pronounced Arctic weather pattern that contributed to the East Coast’s mild winter, fueled a rare ozone hole over the North Pole and even helped turbocharge transatlantic flights is having another unexpected impact:
Helping keep a massive Arctic research expedition on course amidst a global pandemic.

On Friday, researchers announced a new contingency plan to keep the beleaguered Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Change (MOSAiC) expedition — billed as the largest Arctic research expedition in history — up and running after coronavirus-related travel restrictions forced it to suspend an April crew rotation.

In May, the expedition’s flagship research vessel, the R/V Polarstern, will temporarily leave its icebound perch in the central Arctic Ocean, where it has been drifting along with the sea ice since October, and rendezvous with two German research vessels off the north coast of Svalbard, Norway.
These ships will allow it to pick up additional supplies and conduct its third crew swap.

According to expedition leader Markus Rex, an atmospheric scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, the Polarstern is well-positioned to make this unanticipated detour in part because of weather associated with an unusually strong polar vortex this winter.

In recent months, fierce and persistent surface winds linked to this upper atmospheric phenomenon have helped push sea ice surrounding the Polarstern across the central Arctic Ocean at a rapid clip, moving from the Siberian Arctic to the Barents Sea.

“This weather pattern... is connected to a wind system in the Siberian Arctic that drives the ice in a very straight line and very quickly across the Arctic,” Rex said.
As a result, the Polarstern has made “good distance” and is now situated on the Atlantic side of the North Pole, “meaning the operation is possible,” Rex said.

While many other scientific research expeditions were canceled outright due to the coronavirus pandemic, the year-long MOSAiC expedition — which is studying the ocean, atmosphere, ice and ecosystems of the central Arctic — was already underway when covid-19 began.
As travel restrictions mounted, this massive research endeavor, involving 600 scientists and support staff tagging in and out for six distinct legs of the expedition, turned into a logistical nightmare.

First, a researcher who planned to participate in survey flights out of Svalbard in support of MOSAiC tested positive for coronavirus, causing these March flights to be temporarily suspended, and subsequently canceled.
Then, as the government of Norway closed its borders to outsiders, MOSAiC was forced to abandon plans to fly its third crew rotation of roughly 100 scientists and support staff to the Polarstern out of Svalbard in April.

Svalbard is an archipelago in the Norwegian Arctic and a hub of both research and, in better times, tourism.
The Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the globe, increasing access to this region.

The expedition has been searching for an alternative way to send that relief crew north ever since.
At first, it seemed like the team might be able to hitch a ride aboard the Swedish icebreaker Oden, which was already slated to rendezvous with, and resupply, the Polarstern in June.
Then, coronavirus-related restrictions in Sweden forced the Oden to cancel its resupply run.

After pursuing “at least a dozen different options,” MOSAiC finally landed on a new plan with the help of the German government.
The upcoming crew transfer and resupply will be accomplished simultaneously, with the aid of two German research vessels, the R/V Sonne and the R/V Maria S. Merian.

A positive Arctic Oscillation (left) is associated with a strong, stable polar vortex whereas a negative Arctic Oscillation (right) is associated with weak, unstable vortex.

These vessels are not icebreakers, so they will be meeting up with the Polarstern at the ice’s southern edge near Svalbard.
The staff exchange will take place toward the end of May, after the entire relief team has undergone a two-week quarantine and after everyone has been tested “several times” for covid-19, Rex said.

This contingency plan was made possible, at least in part, by several months of favorable winds that helped push the Polarstern to its current location near the northern edge of the Fram Strait separating Greenland and Svalbard.
According to Rex, the team owes the helpful weather to larger patterns in the atmosphere.

Throughout the winter, the polar vortex — an upper level low pressure center surrounded by a belt of west-to-east winds in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere — was exceptionally strong.
This high-altitude conveyor belt bottled up frigid air near the North Pole, creating the right conditions for a rare Arctic ozone hole to form.

Its effects also rippled down into the lower atmosphere, contributing to a record positive phase of the Arctic Oscillation, a pattern of air pressure at the Earth’s surface, in February.

When the Arctic Oscillation is in a positive state, a large, deep low pressure area typically develops over northern Siberia.
At its southern edge, the contrast between this low pressure zone and the higher pressure air masses surrounding it intensifies a fast flowing, west-to-east current of air known as the polar jet stream.
At the northern edge of the low pressure system, meanwhile, strong east-to-west winds develop, helping to blow sea ice — and any ice bound ships — from the Siberian Arctic across the central Arctic Ocean and into the Barents Sea north of Russia.

According to Rex, while the MOSAiC team expected their ship to drift about 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) per day, it’s been moving closer to 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) per day in recent months.
Sea ice drift has also become “more systematic,” Rex said, causing the ship to travel in a fairly straight line.
Both of these trends can be tied back to the exceptional atmospheric conditions, Rex said.

“This winter has been a perfect case study in how these really anomalously strong vortex conditions in the stratosphere have implications for the way weather evolves in the troposphere, especially in high latitudes,” said Andrea Lang, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Albany who is not involved in MOSAic.

The Polarstern will have to take a roughly three week break from its scientific mission in order to link up with the relief vessels, swap its crew, and return to the central Arctic Ocean.
Rex said that while every day of missing data is disappointing, “ a three week gap is something we can live with,” especially considering the alternative might have been abandoning the mission entirely.

Links : 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Social distancing and the navigation rules

From David Burch Navigation blog

These sad times have introduced a new terminology to the public called "social distancing," but this is not a new concept to mariners familiar with the Navigation Rules.
We call it "close-quarters."
Its goal is precisely the same vessel-to-vessel as it is person-to-person: to prevent harm by not getting too close to each other.

The definition is the same in both applications.
We want to define a space around us within which our own safety is under our own control.
If we let the other get closer, vessel or human, we are not protected against a sudden, unexpected maneuver of the other.
Our close quarters or social distance is our safety zone wherein  we can control our fate with our own maneuver and not be dependent on the other vessel or human.

The Navigation Rules effectively instructs us not to let any approaching vessel into our close quarters.
The term appears explicitly in Rule 8, Action to Avoid a Collision, and in Rule 19, Conduct of Vessels in Restricted Visibility, but it is also implied in Rule 17, Action of the Stand-on Vessel that instructs us to maneuver if the other vessel is "not taking appropriate action," which means, among other things, is getting so close we could not avoid a collision by our own maneuver.

The dimensions and shape of close quarters amongst vessels is not defined in the Navigation Rules but has been addressed in numerous court cases.
Going slow in a narrow channel, it could be yards; at high speeds in the open ocean, it is more often thought of in miles. And it depends on the vessels involved.
It is the knowledge and prudence of the skipper to determine the extent of their own close quarters in various circumstances.

The size of the social distancing range is clearly oversimplified in the government specified distance of 6 ft, which, even worse, is sometimes specified as 3 ft—close enough that someone could spit on you and grab your phone.

Six feet is likely chosen because it is easy to think of.
We can picture 6 ft; it is a nice round number—half a dozen.
But you can smell someone's perfume at 6 ft off, which quite literally means molecules coming off of their body have entered your body.
But these social matters are more complex that vessel traffic.
It all depends on what you want to protect against.
Dr Anthony Fauci demonstrated in  a TV interview what a 24-ft sneeze looks like... and it did not seem so unusual at all.
The social distance for a shady character on a dark street is going to be larger than 6 ft.

But my point for now is simply that these are the same concepts, and it might on some occasions help to keep that in mind.

Here is how this term appears in the Rules... with colored text added

Action to Avoid a Collision, Rule 8 (c).
If there is sufficient sea room, alteration of course alone may be the most effective action to avoid a close-quarters situation provided that it is made in good time, is substantial and does not result in another close-quarters situation.


Conduct of Vessels in Restricted VisibilityRule 19 (d).
A vessel which detects by radar alone the presence of another vessel shall determine if a close-quarters situation is developing and/or risk of collision exists.
If so, she shall take avoiding action in ample time, provided that when such action consists of an alteration in course, so far as possible the following shall be avoided:
      (i) An alteration of course to port for a vessel forward of the beam, other than for a vessel being               overtaken;

      (ii) An alteration of course toward a vessel abeam or abaft the beam.

Rule 19 (e).
Except where it has been determined that a risk of collision does not exist, every vessel which hears apparently forward of her beam the fog signal of another vessel, or which cannot avoid a close-quarters situation with another vessel forward of her beam, shall reduce her speed to be the minimum at which she can be kept on her course.
She shall if necessary take all her way off and in any event navigate with extreme caution until danger of collision is over.

Action by Stand-on Vessel,  Rule 17 (a) (i)
Where one of two vessels is to keep out of the way, the other shall keep her course and speed. (ii)
The latter vessel may, however, take action to avoid collision by her maneuver alone, as soon as it becomes apparent to her that the vessel required to keep out of the way is not taking appropriate action in compliance with these Rules. of which is avoiding close quarters.

Note that Rule 19d is a much stronger rule than others in this regard.
Action to avoid a collision and related rules in clear weather refer to actions that "avoid close quarters," whereas Rule 19d in restricted visibility instruct us to maneuver to prevent the development of close quarters.
This calls for earlier maneuvers.

Links :

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Life on lockdown : How months at sea prepared me for lockdown on land

From TechnologyReview by Rose George

My experiences hiding from pirates on the Indian Ocean helped when the loneliness of coronavirus self-isolation kicked in.
But there are still things I miss.

Ten years ago, I ran away to sea.
My stepfather, who had aggressive dementia, had been sent to a secure unit.
I had a book to write.
So once I felt sure enough about my mother’s safety, I departed for 9,288 nautical miles on a container ship, the Maersk Kendal.

Its journey from Europe to Asia would take five weeks, and I would be the only passenger.
This was no cruise ship: there would be no organized entertainment, fancy restaurants, or on-board cinema.
And back in 2010, there was no Wi-Fi, no TV, and only dial-up emails sent once a day through the captain’s account, plus an expensive satellite phone that I used once to check that my mother was okay.
What, my friends said, would I do?
How would I fill all that time?

Today, I am marooned in my house because of coronavirus.
This is only the second time I have had my freedom truly restricted.
Perhaps the first experience has trained me for the second?

My friends thought endless days at sea meant inevitable loneliness and isolation; I thought it meant escape.
I’d lugged books with me and I had work to do.
Besides, I had company.
There would be 21 crew members on board the ship too, although I couldn’t know how they would accept me, nor whether I would feel safe.

The first day was a bad portent: left alone for hours, I wandered the ship and wondered where everyone was (they were busy, it turns out, as they always are in port).
The chilly welcome was made worse by dinner, where no one spoke.
My attempts at conversation sank like a dying whale, and I returned to my cabin in a state of unease.
If it was going to be like this, I wasn’t sure I’d last a week.

Throughout history, plenty of sailors have gone mad at sea.
Even now, 2,000 seafarers a year die or are killed; the number of those that are suicides is unclear.
Compared with some, this was a good ship, with a small library (mostly trash fiction), a small gym with room for a treadmill, bike, and rowing machine, and two lounges with a Wii-outfitted TV and karaoke.
But what it lacked was socializing.
There was no bar and no alcohol allowed.
A basketball hoop on the poop deck was unused; so was a rusty oil drum barbecue, placed uninvitingly under the constant groaning of the refrigerated containers.
The tiny swimming pool had been empty for years.
After dinner, the crew retreated to their cabins.
The lounges stayed mostly empty: only once did I hear some karaoke song by Journey that traveled up the stairwell.
The captain reminisced about the old days, when they rigged up a sheet and watched films together on the deck.
No more: now the crew had laptops and loneliness.

Humans who don’t need contact are rare.
We thrive on company: loneliness and social isolation produce higher rates of morbidity and mortality.
Recent research suggests that social isolation raises the chance of an earlier death by nearly 30%, and living alone increases it by 32%.
A ship used to be an unusual place: perhaps only spaceships and submarines were similar, in that they must serve as home, work, and leisure space.
But now we all are stuck in a space that must be everything, with infrequent relief; space that, no matter how big, is narrowing with each passing day.

On board, I chafed at first.
I missed the internet, the immediacy of its answers and the connection.
When we called into a port, I rushed ashore not just to fetch necessities, but also simply to be somewhere else, to be on land that didn’t move.
By the third week, I had been institutionalized: I cared more about nautical charts than my emails.
Eventually I made friends.
The chilly captain I’d met on arrival was replaced by a charming, chatty one with whom I’m still friends.
Sometimes we stood on the bridge wings, outside the wheelhouse, just to look at the sea.
There was nothing there but water, and that was fine.

I welcomed this restricted life.
There was a purity to the removal of choice that felt relaxing.
But it was finite.
I didn’t have the grueling hard labor of the crew, nor the tiring watches of the officers, nor their multi-month contracts to serve at sea.
Because of the nature of modern ships, where crews are constantly changed, it is easy to experience isolation in company.
Seafarers’ social relations, academics have written, “are experienced as a series of discontinuous encounters.” The Filipino crew called their job “dollar for homesickness” or “prison with a salary.”Isolation, whether social or physical, makes the body pay.
It raises cortisol levels and leads to chronic inflammation, which is linked to heart trouble and cancer.
The ship changed my body, but it was the relentless thrumming of the engine at night that shook my mind asunder.
I woke every morning after dreams of such violence I had to shake them free like sand.

The hardest period was a week of pirate lockdown when we were passing through the Indian Ocean.
I could no longer walk on deck to the fo’c’sle and lean over and watch the bulbous bow slicing through water.
All windows had blackout blinds at night.
Suddenly I missed fresh air and the freedom to open a door and go outside, even if outside was a metal deck.

For now, stuck at home in a pandemic, I still have outside.
Here in Britain we are permitted outdoor exercise once a day, and tending to vegetable gardens is also allowed.
I have every technological communication tool at my disposal and am far better connected than I was at sea.
But there is one deprivation that hits me hard, and I recognize it.
After several weeks at sea, I missed land.
Not the land of quays and ugly port concrete, but the hills and wild country of Yorkshire.
A wildness different from the ocean.
To run through moorland heather; to pelt down sliding scree.
To be somewhere that didn’t sound like a ship engine, relentless.

Many years after learning to run on the treadmill at the gym, I became a hill runner.
Until last week, I’d spent almost every weekend of the last few years racing in beautiful wild country.
That is now forbidden for those of us who do not live at the foot of moors or mountains, and people who drive to the countryside to walk are now policed by sinister drones and shamed on social media.

Still my serenity is so far intact, but I know that won’t last.
When it burns out, I will remember my lesson from pirate week, when my fresh air was removed and time stretched so slowly: This will end.
We will reach the safe zone on the other side—at the end of pirate waters on the south coast of Oman, or in several months’ time—and I will disembark and open the door and head for the hills.

Links :

Monday, April 27, 2020

Will anyone ever find Shackleton's lost ship?

The Endurance's ill-fated voyage marked the end of the "heroic age" of Antarctic exploration
image : F. Hurley/SPRI

From BBC by Jonathan Amos

It's going to take a monumental effort to locate the iconic ship of Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.

This is the conclusion of scientists who tried and failed last year to find the Endurance, which sank in 3,000m of water in the Weddell Sea in 1915.

The team says the sea-ice in the area above the wreck site is nearly always thick and extensive.

It means most expeditions would struggle even to get close enough to begin a search.

The Weddell Sea Expedition 2019 did amazingly well, reaching the recognised wreck location and launching an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to survey the ocean floor.

But this robot broke communications with the expedition research vessel, SA Agulhas II, some 20 hours into its mapping operation and was never seen again.

What it might have detected, we'll never know.
Encroaching sea-ice forced the team to abandon its AUV and to vacate the area.

Image copyright J. Dowdeswell/SPRI
An AUV was launched to look for Endurance, but it was lost under the sea-ice

The expedition scientists have now written up an assessment of the local conditions in this unforgiving sector of the Antarctic.
They've also provided some advice for anyone else who might want to search for Shackleton's polar yacht.

"To finally locate the Endurance on the seafloor would require favourable sea-ice conditions in the central western Weddell Sea, including the presence of wide (open water) leads," said Dr Christine Batchelor from the Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI) in Cambridge, UK.
"In addition, a two-ship operation may be needed to break ice and successfully launch and recover an autonomous underwater vehicle," she told BBC News.

Shackleton's story is one of the most extraordinary tales from the "heroic age" of Antarctic exploration.

Trapped in sea-ice for over 10 months, his Endurance ship drifted around the Weddell Sea until ultimately it was crushed by the floes and dropped to the deep.
How Shackleton and his men then made their escape on foot and in lifeboats is the stuff of legend.

Where the Endurance went down is well known; the ship's captain Frank Worsley logged the position using a sextant and a theodolite.
But reaching this part of the Weddell Sea, just east of the Larsen ice shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula, is extremely difficult, even for modern ice-breakers.

Prof Julian Dowdeswell: "Sea-ice conditions probably haven't changed much since Shackleton's day"

The 2019 team used satellite data to appraise the concentration of sea-ice at the wreck site from 2002 to the present.
The group shows that in 14 of the 18 years assessed, the conditions were "bad".
The nearest open water could be 200km or more away.

One of the "good" years was 2002, which allowed the German research vessel Polarstern to make a very close pass and conduct some limited mapping (echosounding) of the seafloor.
The resolution was never going to be sharp enough to detect the Endurance but it has yielded interesting insights into the nature of the ocean bed - with encouraging implications for the likely state of the wreck.

Endurance is probably lying on flat terrain that has been undisturbed either by erosion or by underwater landslides.
Sediment deposition is also expected to be low, at a rate of less than 1mm a year.

"So, it's not going to be covered by sediment," said Prof Julian Dowdeswell, the director of the SPRI.

"It's not going to be damaged by something coming in from the side.
And at 3,000m, it's way below the maximum depth of any iceberg keel.
Glaciologically and geophysically - Endurance should be unharmed."

This all augurs well for future attempts to find what is among the most famous of all wrecks.
Image copyright J. Dowdeswell/SPRI
Image caption SA Agulhas II: A future search is going to need more than one large polar research vessel

It's certainly right at the top of the list of targets for David Mearns, whose expertise in finding lost ships is world-renowned.

He commented: "It is a shame the 2019 search failed in their attempt to locate Endurance's wreck as they had the best ice conditions seen in the past 17 years.

"This proves my long-held contention that a 'single-ship' expedition is too risky, even with good ice conditions, and that the key to finding Endurance lies in a different approach," he told BBC News.

Prof Dowdeswell is pessimistic that anyone would fund a mission with the sole objective of locating the Endurance.

Most future efforts, he believes, will be "add-ons" to more broader scientific expeditions to the region - as was the case with his venture last year which had the primary objective of studying the melting and retreat of the Larsen ice shelves.

"Yes, you want AUVs and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to search for, and to photograph, the wreck, but it's a great opportunity to use those state-of-the-art vehicles in order to do science; and there is no doubt that we wouldn't have done as much science without those pieces of kit on board, and we wouldn't have had that equipment on board unless we were looking for Shackleton's Endurance.
It was a balance between exploration and science," he said.

Links :

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Sea gypsies : The far side of the world

full movie courtesy of V&V

This is a story of escaping modern civilization and living life as a Sea Gypsy, itinerant explorers and wanderers of the wild oceans.
One year of exploring some of the last great wild lands, the remote islands of the South Pacific, the icy fingers of Antarctica and the isolated fjords of Patagonia.
Our mode of transport and home is Infinity, a 120ft sailing Katch made of reinforced ferro cement, tough stuff.
Think of a bunker, that due to the miracle of water displacement, floats.
She is the home of Capt. Clemens Gabriel, his girlfriend Sage and their two daughters Rhianne (born in Fiji) and Chloe (born in Thailand), Infinity Expedition is also the home away from home for an ever-changing cast of characters, the sea tribe.
The tribe is a patchwork of eccentric peoples from around the globe, a community formed through shared experience. Infinity is a magnet for restless searchers.
Drawn primarily by word of mouth, they represent all ages and nationalities and bring with them a variety of life experience: from professional sailors to gap year college kids, itinerant wanderers to NASA rocket scientists. Some join at one island and leave at the next, some stay for years.
This is not a cruise though, there are no guests, only crew and everyone works… except the babies.
Filmed on magic lantern RAW hack, pirate software for a pirate boat.