Wednesday, January 20, 2021

The global transition to remote and autonomous operations

Take a virtual tour around our state-of-the-art remote operations centre in Aberdeen.
As part of our global network of remote operation centres, it offers data processing, satellite positioning, remote piloting and surveying and inspection of offshore assets.

From Hydro by Hugh Parker & Ross MacFarlane

The Benefits and Challenges Facing the Maritime Industry

Over the next five years, we will witness a significant reduction in the maritime industry’s reliance on larger vessels, as the focus on compact and agile uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) increases and a wider transition towards remote marine operations continues to gather momentum.
The benefits as well as the legal framework challenges of remote and autonomous operations will have a profound impact on the energy and maritime industries.

The ability to plan, manage and monitor offshore projects, and to maintain assets and infrastructure, through remote operations and autonomous capabilities is increasingly critical within the energy and maritime industries.
Through their flexible deployment and good connectivity with onshore remote operations centres (ROCs), USVs can acquire data to support these objectives faster than ever before.

Safety and Sustainability

USVs also provide significant benefits when it comes to safety: used as force multipliers alongside crewed parent vessels, they allow crewed vessels to remain at a safe distance from assets such as wind turbines and avoid unnecessary risk for those onboard.
This has the potential to translate into a 100% reduction in human exposure to hazardous offshore environments where, rather than transmitting their situational awareness and vessel status data to personnel onboard parent vessels, USVs will ultimately be solely controlled from the safety of an onshore location, such as one of Fugro’s ROCs.

Additionally, clients are increasingly looking to reduce the environmental impact of their operations in line with the zero emission targets presented in the UK government’s Maritime 2050 route map.
The global transition towards remote and autonomous working will help to reduce the greenhouse gases emitted by the maritime industry, as hybrid USVs consume up to 95% less fuel than conventional vessels.

However, despite these obvious advantages, as innovation outpaces regulation, the legal framework in which USVs operate remains a challenge.

Fugro’s Blue Shadow next-generation uncrewed surface vehicle.

Maritime Legislation for Uncrewed Vessels

The safety of life at sea is a core value of all maritime authorities around the globe.
The current maritime legislation has been carefully crafted over many decades with the safety of the mariner at its core; however, we are now transitioning to a future where vessels no longer have a mariner onboard, which creates a gap in the current legislation.
This poses an interesting problem of how to legislate for both crewed and uncrewed vessels operating side by side.

Safety Standards

As is the case with the rapid development of any new technology, it is challenging to create fixed ruling that leaves room for constant innovation and the continued progression of new methods of working.

One of the first attempts at this will be the revised workboat code being developed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), expected by the start of 2022.
The workboat code document will apply to commercial vessels up to 24m long and include new regulations covering MASS.
This reflects the fact that many USVs in development or already operating are smaller than their conventional crewed vessel counterparts.

The focus of this forthcoming legislation is expected to shift from the safety of crew onboard to the safety of other seagoing vessels and the wider environment.
This is particularly the case with the adoption and creation of rules to ensure that vessels can maintain an awareness of their surroundings and take appropriate action to prevent incidents.
At present, vessels have two clear ways to achieve this: through remote monitoring and control by a human operator and/or using onboard situational awareness and collision avoidance software.

Fugro’s Blue Shadow hydrographic survey operations displayed onscreen in a Fugro remote operations centre.

Trusting Uncrewed and Remote Technology

Much like self-driving cars, societal acceptance is crucial to the adoption of these new technologies, where they are expected to work correctly 100% of the time with no margin for error.
While collision avoidance systems are being developed to improve USVs’ navigation safety, the question of public trust remains: can we trust a USV to be left alone at sea and respond as a conventional crewed vessel would? If not, how do we ensure that the people who are remotely monitoring and controlling them have the same situational awareness as they would onboard?
The regulations which eventually come into force will need to balance the developmental freedom to truly revolutionize the way in which the maritime industry operates with the ongoing protection of those human lives still at sea, while also improving safety standards and protecting the environment.

Trialled and Tested USV Operations

Fugro’s Blue Shadow is a globally deployed, next-generation 9m autonomous and uncrewed hydrographic survey platform delivering nearshore seabed insights faster.
Part of Fugro’s overall hydrographic solution, Blue Shadow is one of many from its fleet of USVs ranging from 9m to 24m, within the suite of remote and autonomous capabilities that are more sustainable when compared to conventional vessels.
Sustainability of USVs is an advantage built into their design concept from the beginning: vessels whose function is purely to survey and acquire data can of course be much smaller than traditional vessels, which are designed to transport people and cargo.

Fugro recently completed its first remotely operated hydrographic survey using Blue Shadow to capture hydrographic and bathymetric data to support safe navigation, nautical charting, marine site characterization and resource management activities.

Fugro’s Blue Shadow performing its autonomous survey trials off the coast of Portchester, UK.

Executed during challenging environmental conditions, including waves of up to 2m, the compact, wave-piercing design of the USV allowed it to acquire high-quality data in conditions that would have been unworkable for conventional vessels.
This lengthening of the potential work window increases surety of project delivery, providing more opportunities throughout the year to acquire much-needed data for clients.

The survey operations also achieved, depending on the sea conditions, a 61% to 96% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions through significantly reduced fuel consumption.
Moreover, the innovative collision avoidance and advanced spatial awareness technology built into the Blue Shadow ensured its autonomous operations met the highest safety standards.

What Next?

While the development and deployment of new remote and autonomous solutions progress, the legal framework will continue to play an essential role in influencing the design and engineering parameters for next-generation USVs and other MASS.
We are currently in a critical phase of the global transition to remote and autonomous maritime operations and it is essential that the legal framework is swiftly put in place to allow these technologies to flourish.

Fugro’s Blue Essence USV, part of Fugro’s remote and autonomous operations solution, carrying out inspection operations.

Links :

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Australia (AHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

10 nautical raster charts updated

The Arctic Ocean is teeming wth microfibers from clothes

Getty Images
From Wired by MattSimon

Scientists find an average of 40 microplastic particles per cubic meter of the northern water.
The likely source? The synthetic clothing in our washing machines.

Throw a polyester sweater in the washing machine and it’ll come out nice and clean, but also not quite its whole self.
As it rinses, millions of synthetic fibers will shake loose and wash out with the waste water, which then flows to a treatment plant.
Each year, a single facility might pump 21 billion of these microfibers out to sea, where they swirl in currents, settle in sediments, and end up as fish food, with untold ecological consequences.

Everywhere scientists look in the world’s oceans, they’re finding microfibers, technically a subcategory of microplastics, which are defined as particles less than 5 millimeters long.
And now, after making four expeditions across the Arctic Ocean, a team of scientists is reporting just how badly even these remote waters have been tainted.
Sampling as deep as 1,000 meters, they found an average of 40 microplastic particles per cubic meter of water, 92 percent of which were microfibers.
Nearly three-quarters of these were polyester, strong evidence that humanity’s addiction to synthetic clothing is corrupting Earth’s oceans.

“It simply illustrates just how contaminated our planet has become with synthetic polymers,” says Peter Ross, an ocean pollution scientist and marine pollution adviser at Ocean Wise Conservation Association, a conservation NGO, and lead author on a new paper in Nature Communications describing the findings.

Sea ice in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago in July 2017.
Seawater samples were taken from 71 locations across a vast swathe of the Arctic region.
Credit: David Goldman/AP
Ross and his fellow researchers from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada took care not to sample surface waters, which tend to accumulate buoyant styrofoam and lost fishing gear.
For this reason, that water is not a proper representative sample of the plastic pollution that lurks in the sea.
Instead, they had to collect water from a few meters beneath the surface, and—conveniently enough—their research vessels had intakes ports situated on the bottom of their hulls.
The scientists also took samples up and down the water column, as deep as 1,015 meters, from six stations in the Beaufort Sea above Alaska.

They had to be sure, though, that they weren’t mistaking natural particles for synthetic ones, so they employed a forensic technique called Fourier transform infrared spectrometry, or FTIR.
An instrument bombards the particles with an infrared beam, exciting certain molecules in the sample, and analyzing the infrared signature reflected back at the detector.
In this way, the scientists could not only confirm whether a particle was synthetic, but could also determine what kind of plastic it was.
“Even our trained technicians in our group would often mistake these mystery particles for plastic when they are in fact something natural,” says Ross.
“So the FTIR is very important to confirm that the mystery particle is plastic or not.”

Particles confirmed, the team measured their lengths and diameters, which matched the known dimensions of synthetic fibers.
Nearly 75 percent of the fibers were polyester, a common material in synthetic clothing, and they came in a range of colors too.
“The alignment is striking,” says Ross.
“All of this really does line up our concerns around the prospects of a significant role for textiles and laundry in contaminating the world's oceans.”

Microplastic (MP) particles were characterized in 71 near-surface (3–8 m depth) seawater samples collected during four oceanographic expeditions in 2016: (i) aboard the CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurierwith samples from the North Pacific Ocean, Bering Sea and Chukchi Sea (C30; blue squares); (ii) the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea expedition aboard the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurentalong a transect from Tromsø, Norway, passing over the North Pole and into the northern Canada Basin (UNCLOS; black circles); (iii) the Joint Ocean Ice Study aboard the CCGS Louis S. St Laurentwith samples from the Canada Basin (JOIS; red triangles); and (iv) the One Ocean Expeditions RV Akademik Ioffe, with samples collected from Greenland through the central Canadian Arctic Archipelago (OOE; yellow triangles). Microplastic samples (26) were collected at six stations in the Beaufort Sea down to 1015 m (pale blue diamonds). Arrows are drawn to provide an approximate representation of the well-described inflows of Atlantic- and Pacific-origin waters into the Arctic Ocean. The width of the arrows is proportional to the volume of the inflow
source Nature
Because the team had data from four expeditions that wandered all over the Arctic, they could compare their samples from the eastern region (above the Atlantic Ocean) to the western region (above Alaska and the Yukon).
They found three times more particles in the east compared to the west.
The fibers were also 50 percent longer in the east and their infrared signature more closely resembled that of virgin polyester—indicators that these fibers were newer.
“As fibers move into the Arctic or into the environment, they get weathered, they get older over time,” Ross says.
“The infrared signature changes with sunlight, with chemical processes, with bacterial decomposition.”

Their results showed that the weathering was more evident in fibers found in the west.
So taken altogether, the scientists reckon this means that most of the particles are arriving from the east and degrading as they travel to the west.
While there is some inflow of water from the Pacific Ocean into the western Arctic, it seems that far more particles are entering the eastern Arctic from the Atlantic Ocean, where inflow is greater.
The microfibers swirl around for a time, aging and weathering, with many of them likely ending up in the western Arctic.

The findings jibe with research published last September that found that Arctic Ocean sediments are packed with blue jean fibers washed out to sea in wastewater.
Also last year, another team of scientists found that currents are transporting microplastic particles around oceans, eventually depositing them en masse in sediment “hot spots” on the seafloor.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Louis S. St. Laurent transiting the Arctic Ocean.
This expedition between Norway and Canada collected seawater samples for microplastics analysis.
Image via Arthi Ramachandra/Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Which is all to say: Microplastic particles and fibers are traveling vast distances.
This new research not only confirms that the Arctic Ocean is teeming with the fibers, it also offers an explanation of how they’re getting there.
It’s likely that wastewater treatment facilities in Europe and along the east coasts of Canada and the US are dumping untold numbers of them into the Atlantic, where currents carry the particles up to the Arctic.

Air transport also probably plays a role: Scientists previously found up to 14,000 microplastic particles per liter of remote Arctic snow, and they concluded that the stuff had likely blown in from continental Europe.
Researchers have also found that microplastics get transported out of the sea when waves crash and spew ocean spray loaded with particles into the air, where the tiny plastic bits can then float.

"This is an important piece of work that provides a valuable data set for future microplastic research," says University of Strathclyde microplastics researcher Steve Allen, who wasn't involved in the research.
"The level of detail is exceptional.
Their findings add a tremendous amount of weight to the discussion surrounding laundry outputs of microplastic fibers to the environment, and the need to address it quickly.
It really hammers home the fact that you can't pollute in any one place and expect that it will stay there."

One big remaining question is how those microplastics might be affecting the ecosystems they infest.
Ocean sediments are loaded with the stuff, and scientists have already discovered that fish larvae mistake these particles for food.
“We need to find out how much of this is already incorporated into the food web, which is, of course, already under threat from global climate change,” says marine ecologist Melanie Bergmann of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, who researches microplastic in the Arctic but wasn’t involved in this new work.

Now, what to do about this omnipresent pollutant? It’s not likely that humanity will instantly phase out clothing made of synthetic material.
But we as consumers can demand that brands abandon fast fashion—cheaply made synthetic clothing that easily shreds into microfibers.
Governments can also legislate that washing machine manufacturers add fiber-trapping filters to their products.
In the meantime, you can retrofit your machine with an aftermarket filter or wash your clothes in a special bag that keeps microfibers out of wastewater.

This new research adds to a growing body of evidence fingering clothing as a major source of microplastic pollution all over the planet, from the tops of remote mountains to the bottom of the sea.
“It highlights once more,” says Bergmann, “that we need to tackle this issue by either reducing our usage of such textiles or improving our retention facilities and sewage treatment plants.”

Links :

Monday, January 18, 2021

Norway (NHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

152 nautical raster charts updated

Real-life 'Bond boat' that can convert into a submersible 'in minutes' and steer itself along the sea floor using sonar is set to hit the water in 2021

Real-life 'Bond boat' that can convert into a submersible 'in minutes' and steer itself along the sea floor using sonar is set to hit the water in 2021
Photos show construction of the VICTA vessel made by a Hampshire-based company nearing completion
VICTA can steer along the sea floor using obstacle avoidance sonar technology – the use of sound waves
Vessel is reminiscent of James Bond’s sea-diving Lotus Esprit in the 1977 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me

From DailyMail by Jonathan Chadwick

A UK company has nearly completed construction on the world’s 'most technically advanced surface-submersible', capable of operating both on and under the water.

Being hailed as something out of a James Bond film, photographs have been released of the construction of the VICTA craft by its developers, Hampshire-based company SubSea Craft.

VICTA, which is being built following a £12 million investment, is set to be sold across the world for primarily defence-orientated missions and 'advanced sub-aqua tourism', from 2021.

The craft, which has echoes of James Bond’s sea-diving Lotus Esprit in the 1977 Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, is controlled by a two-man crew and can carry an additional six commandos.

Diesel engines power VICTA on the water's surface, achieving speeds of up to 40 knots over a range of 250 nautical miles, while lithium ion batteries power operations beneath the water's surface.

Once submerged, VICTA also uses obstacle avoidance sonar technology – the use of sound waves – to prevent it from colliding with anything underwater.

The sonar system is capable of building a 3D impression of the sea floor to help its operators guide and navigate the vessel.

The world’s most technically advanced surface-submersible, made in Britain and set to be sold across the globe, is to hit the water in 2021.
New images of the VICTA craft, designed for the defence market, have been released this week

Boat capable of diving is unveiled by British firm SubSea Craft

SubSea Craft says: 'Throughout history, commanders have dreamed of a craft able to travel on the surface before diving to approach a target unseen. That dream is now a reality.'

Funded by a private investor, VICTA has been designed for the defence market, with special forces in mind including the Royal Navy.

Images show the craft's lower hull being bonded to the upper skin this week as the build enters its final stage.

'Now that the dynamic shape and form of VICTA has been established, we can get to the truly exciting stages of the build,' said Scott Verney, SubSea Craft CEO.

Made by SubSea Craft in Hampshire, the vessel can be carried by helicopter and lowered into the sea. It can reach 40 knots while on the water's surface and becomes a submarine with a top speed of 8 knots. Engines power the water jets on the surface and batteries power the thrusters when underwater

VICTA’s form begins to emerge as the hull is bonded to the coachroof, giving shape to the whole craft in new photos released on Monday

Until now, construction has been focused on the fit out of the craft, installing an array of vital components including its powerful batteries.
However, this 'shifted dramatically' in the last few days, SubSea Craft said


The craft is made of carbon fibre with a Diab core.

A lightweight construction many times stronger than fibreglass, VICTA will be faster and more manoeuvrable than comparable craft

VICTA’s diesel engine powers the craft on the surface through an efficient water jet achieving speeds of up to 40 knots over a range of 250 nautical miles

'Integration of the full technical suite and control systems for the craft will be a game-changing moment.

'In an uncertain world, nations seek an advantage which VICTA can provide.

'We are on track for trials and testing this coming winter, with the aim of having the craft operational late 2021.'

The design allows VICTA to be dropped into the sea from a military aircraft or be released from the hull of a Royal Navy sub, before it powers along on the surface of the water.

VICTA includes a number of technological firsts, according to the company, including its engine, which has has been fully 'sub-marinised' in order to allow it to withstand complete immersion in salt water.

The craft has echoes of James Bond’s sea-diving Lotus Esprit in The Spy Who Loved Me, above, also known as Wet Nellie (pictured)

This is necessary as, unlike a traditional submarine where the interior stays pressurised and water free, the crew and the vessel's contents are immersed in water when the vessel dives.

All of the eight crew on-board wear diving gear because the cockpit floods as the vessel plunges.

VICTA combines characteristics of a fast-moving surface craft with those of a specialist submersible to deliver divers 'discreetly'.

A 'rapid transition' between the two modes, which can happen in just a couple of minutes, is enabled by a fly-by-wire control system – a semi-automatic, computer-regulated aircraft system with an electronic interface.

Capable of operating both on and under the water, VICTA combines the characteristics of a fast surface craft with those of a specialist submersible

Fly-by-wire delivers 'dynamic stability in all conditions' and lets the crew better focus on their mission.

It provides the ‘brain’ to facilitate the vessel's passage at speed and is dynamically controlled to minimise the pilot’s intervention.

Meanwhile, lithium ion batteries enclosed in fully watertight chambers generate sufficient energy to power the craft's thrusters when underwater for up to four hours – sufficient to cover 25 nautical miles on a single charge.

Once the craft is submerged, the crew have the option of exiting through the doors and swimming in the surrounding waters, before getting back on board and powering the craft back towards the surface.

The vessel, which is made of carbon fibre, is both lightweight and 'many times stronger than fibreglass' while being faster and more manoeuvrable than comparable craft.

Once complete, acrylic windows, hatches, hinges and life-support system will be installed ahead of comprehensive trials and testing.

Brigadier Tim Chicken, a former Royal Marine commander in Afghanistan who now works for SubSea Craft previously said: ‘Our design is truly cutting edge.

'VICTA opens up potentially game changing tactical and strategic choices in maritime, joint and special operations.’

Bird's eye view of VICTA. Dropped from a helicopter, the sleek carbon-fibre speedboat races along the water at 40 knots before turning into a submarine

VICTA is controlled by a two-man crew and can carry an additional six commandos at the back, all equipped with breathing apparatus

Rapid transition between the two modes is enabled by a fly-by-wire control system, which delivers dynamic stability in all conditions, controlled by the two operators at the front

Obstacle avoidance sonar will act as VICTA’s eyes underwater. 
This is capable of building a 3D impression of the sea floor out down to 330 feet, to help guide and navigate the vessel

Once complete, acrylic windows, hatches, hinges and life-support system will be installed ahead of comprehensive trials and testing

More photos from construction. SubSea Craft calls itself a privately-funded SME (small to medium enterprise) delivering advanced maritime technology

VICTA is a 'unique and innovative' British product focused primarily on the defence market but with utility beyond, according to SubSea Craft

SubSea Craft says: 'Throughout history, commanders have dreamed of a craft able to travel on the surface before diving to approach a target unseen. That dream is now a reality'


A sub-marinised diesel engine powers VICTA on the surface through a highly efficient water jet. Sub-marinised means the engine can withstand complete immersion in salt water

Sunday, January 17, 2021

New Zealand (Linz) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

 5 nautical raster charts updated

On August 25th, 1875 Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim across the English Channel : here is a map of his route

On August 25th, 1875 Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim across the English Channel.
Here is a map of his route.
The tide carries him northward, then turns and brings him south again.
  From History

On August 24, 1875, Captain Matthew Webb of Great Britain becomes the first man to successfully swim the English Channel without assistance.
After the feat, Webb became an international celebrity, admired for both his prowess in the water and his penchant for risk-taking.

Born in Shropshire, England on January 19, 1848, Webb taught himself to swim in the River Severn at Coalbrookdale.
At just 12 years old, he enlisted as a merchant seaman, and eventually was named captain of the steamship Emerald.
Webb had a well-deserved reputation for recklessness, and often had trouble convincing sailors to remain in his employ.
In August 1872, he became a hero in England when, while traveling on a ship, he dove into the Atlantic to rescue a fellow passenger who fell overboard.
Although the man drowned, Webb emerged unscathed 35 minutes later and was rewarded with medals of bravery for his efforts.
He then embarked on a career as a professional distance swimmer, taking huge risks in order to add to his fame and fortune.

After hearing of a failed attempt to swim the English Channel by British swimmer J.B. Johnson in 1873, Webb set his sights on becoming the first man to swim the treacherous body of water without assistance.
He made his first attempt on August 12, 1875, but was stymied by high winds and bad conditions.
Unfazed, he tried again less than two weeks later.

After covering himself with porpoise oil to keep warm, Webb, trailed by a flotilla of three boats, entered the water near Dover’s Admiralty Pier.
Admiralty nautical chart of the south coast of England from Dungeness to the Thames including Dover Strait.
Surveyed by Captain Frederick Bullock.
The coast of France from the Pilote Francaise including the Varne & Ridge 1848.
Though he was stung by a jellyfish eight hours into his attempt, he persevered after being soothed by a nip of brandy.
He swam into the out-rushing tide toward Cape Gris-Nez, which is now often used as the starting point for Channel swims.
Finally, after 21 hours and 45 minutes of swimming against the tide—the equivalent of 39 miles–he waded onto the beach at Calais at 10:40 a.m., the morning after he began his swim, exhausted.
His achievement was celebrated all over the world.

On July 24, 1883, Webb attempted his final stunt: a swim across the Niagara River, downriver from Niagara Falls.
Many warned him the stunt was suicide, and, unfortunately for Webb, they were right.
Webb drowned in the whirlpool approximately 10 minutes after entering the water.
His body was found four days later. 
Links :

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Canada (CHS) update in the GeoGarage platform

42 nautical raster charts updated

Image of the week : In a year's worth of photos, the Sentinel-1 satellites materialise the Channel maritime motorway

 From Ciel&espace

Seen by satellite radar, ships transiting between France and England draw a double line that evokes the Brexit, in force for the new year.
On 31 December 2020 at midnight (23:00 GMT), the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.
An image taken by the two satellites Sentinel-1A and 1B, of the European Copernicus programme, seems to symbolise the event: it is the accumulation of radar images taken throughout 2020 over the Channel.

Able to see through the clouds, the Sentinel-1 radar allows all the ships in permanent transit between France and England to be seen.

Adding up the photos gives an astonishing materialisation of this maritime route, one of the busiest in the world...
And symbolically, this route evokes the separation between Great Britain and the Continent, which was actuated by the Brexit, and which becomes a reality from the first second of 2021.

The Channel maritime motorway has two lanes to avoid collisions between the many ships using it.
The North Sea is studded with pre-polar installations and wind farms. Credit: ESA.

Already in 2019, the European Space Agency had published a similar image that accumulated photos taken over three years, between 2016 and 2018.

In the 2020 image, which was broadcast on 31 December on Twitter by journalist Tim Wallace of the New York Times, in addition to the cargo ships transiting the English Channel, the ferries sailing between Calais and Dover were also shown, as well as the wind farms installed at sea, which drew geometric patterns.

A zoom on the Belwind wind farm off the coast of the Netherlands reveals the 110 wind turbines installed at sea between 2010 and 2017.
Credit: ESA.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Climate change: Weakened 'ice arches' speed loss of Arctic floes

From BBC by Jonathan Amos

Look down on the Arctic from space and you can see some beautiful arch-like structures sculpted out of sea-ice.

They form in a narrow channel called Nares Strait, which divides the Canadian archipelago from Greenland.
Sentinel2 image of the arc of the Nares Strait

As floes funnel southward down this restricted conduit, they ram up against the coastline to form a dam, and then everything comes to a standstill.
"They look just like the arches in a gothic cathedral," observes Kent Moore from the University of Toronto.
"And it's the same physics, even though it's ice.
The stress is being distributed all along the arch and that's what makes it very stable," he told BBC News.

But the UoT Mississauga professor is concerned that these "incredible" ice forms are actually being weakened in the warming Arctic climate.
They're thinning and losing their strength, and this bodes ill, he believes, for the long-term retention of all sea-ice in the region.

Directly to the north of Nares Strait is the Lincoln Sea.
It's where you'll find some of the oldest, thickest floes in the Arctic Ocean.

It's this ice that will be the "last to go" when, as the computer models predict, the Arctic becomes ice-free during summer months sometime this century.

There are essentially two ways this old ice can be lost.
It can be melted in place in the rising temperatures or it can be exported.
And it's this second mode that's in play in Nares Strait.

The 40km-wide channel's arches act as a kind of valve on the amount of sea-ice that can be pushed out of the Arctic by currents and winds.

When stuck solidly in place, typically from January onwards - the arches shut off all transport (sea-ice can still be exported from the Arctic via the Fram Strait, which is the passage between eastern Greenland and Svalbard).

But what Prof Moore's and colleagues' satellite research has shown is that these structures are becoming less reliable barriers.

Nares strait with the GeoGarage platform (NGA nautical raster charts)

They are forming for shorter periods of time, and the amount of frozen material allowed to pass through the strait is therefore increasing as a consequence.

"We have about 20 years of data, and over that time the duration of these arches is definitely getting shorter," Prof Moore explained.
"We show that the average duration of these arches is decreasing by about a week every year.
They used to last for 250-200 days and now they last for 150-100 days.
And then as far as the transport goes - in the late 1990s to early 2000s, we were losing about 42,000 sq km of ice every year through Nares Strait; and now it's doubled: we're losing 86,000 sq km."

Prof Moore says we need to hang on to the oldest ice in the Arctic for as long as possible.

If the world manages to implement the ambition of the Paris climate accord and global warming can be curtailed and reversed, then it's the thickest ice retained along the top of Canada and Greenland that will "seed" the rebound in the frozen floes.

The area of oldest, thickest ice, he adds, is also going to be an important refuge for those species that depend on the floating floes for their way of life - the polar bears, walruses and seals.

"My concern is that this last ice area may not last for as long as we think it will.
This is ice that is five, six, even 10 years old; so if we lose it, it will take a long time to replenish even if we do eventually manage to cool the planet."

Prof Moore and colleagues have published their latest research in the journal Nature Communications.

Links :

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Saildrone launches 72-foot Surveyor, revolutionizing ocean seabed mapping


The new Saildrone Surveyor is the world’s most advanced uncrewed surface vehicle, equipped with an array of acoustic instruments for high-resolution shallow and deep-water mapping.

Less than 20% of Earth’s oceans have been mapped using modern, high-resolution technology—we know more about the topography of the Moon and Mars than we do about our own planet.
And yet, knowing the shape of the seabed is critical to understanding ocean circulation patterns, which affect climate and weather prediction, tides, wave action and tsunami wave propagation, sediment transport, underwater geo-hazards, and resource exploration.

The Saildrone Surveyor was launched from Saildrone headquarters in Alameda, CA, January 2021. 

Saildrone is excited to announce it has launched the Saildrone Surveyor, a new 72-foot uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) equipped for high-resolution mapping of the ocean seafloor.

The Surveyor carries a sophisticated array of acoustic instruments for both shallow and deep-water ocean mapping; the Kongsberg EM 304 multibeam echo sounder is capable of mapping the seafloor down to 7,000 meters below the surface.
The Surveyor also carries two state-of-the-art Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers (ADCPs), the Teledyne Pinnacle 45 kHz ADCP and the Simrad EC150-3C ADCP, to measure ocean currents and understand what is in the water column.
The Surveyor is also equipped with the Simrad EK80 echo sounder for fish stock assessments.

The hull of the Saildrone Surveyor being lifted into the water by crane.
The Surveyor is equipped with a sophisticated array of acoustic instruments including the Kongsberg EM304 multibeam sonar, Simrad EK80 echo sounder, Teledyne Pinnacle ADCP, and Simrad EC150 ADCP.

The launch of the Saildrone Surveyor coincides with the start of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and presents a paradigm shift in enhanced seabed mapping.
Ocean mapping is currently done with very large and expensive crewed ships.
The Saildrone Surveyor is a scaled-up version of the Saildrone Explorer, the 23-foot wind and solar-powered saildrone, which has been proven in numerous operational missions for science, ocean mapping, and maritime security, covering more than 500,000 nautical miles from the Arctic to the Antarctic.

Like the Explorer, the Saildrone Surveyor is uncrewed and uses renewable solar energy to power its robust sensor suite; the Surveyor delivers an equivalent survey capability, but at a fraction of the cost and carbon footprint of a traditional survey ship and without putting human health and safety at risk.

“The launch of the Surveyor is a huge step up, not just for Saildrone’s data services but for the capabilities of uncrewed systems in our oceans,” said Richard Jenkins, founder & CEO of Saildrone.
“For the first time, a scalable solution now exists to map our planet within our lifetime, at an affordable cost.”

Enhanced seabed mapping is vital for the security, safety, and economic health of every country bordering the ocean and critical to the growth of the “Blue Economy,” which, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), is valued at $1.5 trillion a year and creates the equivalent of 31 million full-time jobs.

With the Surveyor, Saildrone aims to accelerate many of the global mapping initiatives that seek to provide better insights into Earth’s processes: Seabed 2030 is a UN-backed joint initiative between GEBCO and the Nippon Foundation to produce a definitive map of the world ocean by 2030, and the 2019 White House Memorandum on Ocean Mapping calls for a national strategy for mapping, exploring, and characterizing the US exclusive economic zone.

“We are excited to see the launch of the Saildrone Surveyor,” said Alan Leonardi, director of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.
“NOAA is supporting the development and testing of this new uncrewed system because we are confident it will expand the capability of our existing fleet of ships to help us accelerate in a cost-effective way our mission to map, characterize and explore our nation’s deep ocean territory, monitor valuable fisheries and other marine resources, and provide information to unleash the potential of our nation’s Blue Economy.”

The Saildrone Surveyor with the 23-foot Saildrone Explorer and Saildrone Support boat in Alameda, CA.

The Saildrone Surveyor was developed in part through a public-private partnership with the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) to integrate and test sensors on the Saildrone Surveyor for mapping the seafloor and revealing life in the water column.
While conducting ocean mapping missions, the Surveyor will collect samples of environmental DNA (eDNA) from the water column— DNA originating from the sloughed-off skin, mucus, and excrement of a wide variety of marine animals—which will reveal the genetic composition of organisms inhabiting the water.
This PPP was supported by a three-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) through the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP).

Saildrone’s fleet of USVs has logged more than 10,000 days at sea in some of the most extreme weather conditions on the planet.
In 2020, Saildrone completed its first Arctic mapping mission on behalf of NOAA’s National Ocean Service, and in 2019, Saildrone completed the first autonomous circumnavigation of Antarctica, collecting critical carbon data related to climate science.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The polar vortex has just been disrupted. What does this bode?

From Mashable by Mark Kaufman

The stratosphere is a powerful place.
Perhaps the most influential guitar ever devised is even named after this lofty layer in the atmosphere, which exists between some 10 to 30 miles up in the sky.

And during each dark winter, the Arctic's polar vortex — strong winds that circle westward around the pole — comes to life in the stratosphere.
It's a normal, reoccurring winter phenomenon.
"Every year we get this big spin up and then it disappears," marveled Andrea Lang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Albany who researches changes in seasonal winter weather.
Yet about every other year or so the polar vortex gets thrown out of whack, loses its stability, and weakens during the winter.
This can have dramatic, extreme weather implications in places like the U.S.
and Europe (like plunging temperatures, or even warmer temperatures in some places!).
Now in early 2021, atmospheric scientists saythe polar vortex has been significantly disrupted.

In 2020, much of the East Coast experienced a relatively wimpy winter, in large part because the polar vortex stayed extremely stable and in place atop the globe.
It didn't weaken and wobble around much.
But with a disrupted polar vortex in 2021, there are now better odds for colder air to spill out of the Arctic.
"There's a greater likelihood for the opposite of last winter," said Simon Lee, a Ph.D. student researching the stratosphere in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading.

The spinning polar vortex can be disrupted by weather in the lower atmosphere — where there's streaming flows of air called planetary waves traveling around the globe — impacting the stratosphere.
Like waves crashing on the beach, these planetary waves or other major weather events can knock the vortex off balance.
A good analogy is someone nudging a spinning top so it starts to wobble, explained Amy Butler, a research physicist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Chemical Sciences Laboratory.

Crucially, the disruption weakens the vortex's potent winds, and can even reverse them to easterly winds.
These weakened winds ultimately sink to the lower stratosphere where it impacts our weather.
How so?
The weakened polar vortex can now nudge the jet stream (an extremely influential band of powerful winds that separates colder northern air from warmer southern air, somewhat like a barrier).
When these sinking winds push the jet stream down south, it "opens the Arctic fridge," so to speak, allowing blasts of frigid Arctic air to blow down to southerly places.
That's why there was snow in Rome in 2018!

Sometimes the weakening of the polar vortex can be extreme, leading to an event with a somewhat dramatic name, though the event is normal.
It's called "sudden stratospheric warming." And, yes, a major sudden stratospheric warming event is underway in the stratosphere (the event takes place over a matter of days).
It's triggered by things like planetary waves "breaking" into the stratosphere (described above).
This slows the winds and causes air to sink in the vortex — which warms as it sinks (hence the "warming").
Importantly, this considerably weakened, wobbling, elongating vortex can potentially split into two vortices.
This can really push around the jet stream below, making for weather extremes.

Will the polar vortex soon split in 2021?
There's a decent chance.
"This is looking a little like a splitting event right now," said the University of Albany's Lang.

The weather events that triggered 2021's polar vortex disruption and potential splitting are not yet clear, but will be investigated in the coming months, said the University of Reading's Lee.
For example, a potent "bomb cyclone" (a very powerful storm) over the North Pacific Ocean around the new year may have given the stratosphere a push, on top of other dynamic weather in December.
These events may have disrupted the polar vortex like "nudging a spinning top."

So what should you ultimately expect? Big sudden stratospheric warming events boost the odds for certain types of weather.
"In particular, they are followed by cold extremes over much of northern Europe and Asia, and the Eastern U.S., and anomalously warmer temperatures over the Canadian Arctic and subtropical Asia," explained NOAA's Butler.
(These temperature contrasts are based on where the jet stream, which separates cold air from warmer air, tends to get nudged by a disturbed polar vortex.)

But in the profoundly chaotic atmosphere, few weather events are guaranteed.
For now, the polar vortex has been thrown out of whack.
This winter, you might soon experience some weather extremes.

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