Saturday, February 13, 2021

Image of the week : phytoplancton

Phytoplankton (likely largely composed of the dinoflagellate, Noctiluca scintillans) continue to flourish in the Arabian Sea.
This view was collected by Suomi-NPP/VIIRS on January 29, 2021.
Click on it to get a larger version. 
Oman basin wth the GeoGarage platform (SHOM nautical chart)
Links :

Friday, February 12, 2021

Tests of Galileo OSNMA underway

  As far as spoofing incidents are concerned, the answer is signal authentication.
Europe’s Galileo program wants to be the first to offer this basic GNSS security measure to the masses.
Galileo has started testing its Open Service Navigation Message Authentication (OSNMA)
This is the first-ever transmission of authentication features in open GNSS signals.
It enables to verify the authenticity of GNSS information
From EC

Galileo has started testing Open Service Navigation Message Authentication (OSNMA) in the signal-in-space, allowing the first-ever OSNMA-protected position fix to be successfully computed.

Galileo has started testing Open Service Navigation Message Authentication (OSNMA) in the signal-in-space, allowing the first-ever OSNMA-protected position fix to be successfully computed.
Testing will continue over the next months, ahead of a so-called “public observation” phase.
This is the first-ever transmission of authentication features in open GNSS signals of a global navigation system.

The Galileo OSNMA is an authentication mechanism that allows GNSS receivers to verify the authenticity of GNSS information, making sure that the data they receive are indeed from Galileo and have not been modified in any way.

Pioneering a long-awaited service

On November 18th 2020, 15:28 UTC, Galileo satellites started the transmission of authentication data for testing purposes.
This was the first-ever signal-in-space (SIS) with the so-called OSNMA, Galileo’s data authentication service.
As part of the tests, OSNMA receivers successfully calculated a message-authenticated position for the first time.

“Ensuring the validity of positions elaborated by GNSS is one of the main challenges before addressing an entirely new set of applications demanding dependability and resilience. Galileo is now set on course to deliver on this highly anticipated feature and has many more novel features in store for the coming years”, says Matthias Petschke, Director of Space at the European Commission, DG DEFIS.

courtesy ESA

OS Increased Robustness

“Galileo’s Open Service Navigation Message Authentication is one of its key differentiators.
The additional robustness that it will provide to the Galileo signal will be critical for many applications, particularly those where security and trustworthiness are a priority, making the OSNMA a key component in any resilient PNT solution”, says Rodrigo da Costa, Executive Director of the European GNSS Agency.

“Up until now, as a navigation satellite disseminates navigation and timing data, there is no way of confirming these data are indeed coming from their apparent originator.
As a result, the data could be falsified, a phenomenon known as spoofing, where corrupt false signals mislead receivers about their position, misleading their users in turn, with potentially serious consequences”, comments Paul Verhoef, Director of Navigation at the European Space Agency.

Testing Activities

OSNMA test signals are being broadcast by the Galileo constellation using the spare bits from the current navigation message, therefore not impacting the legacy OS receivers implementing the current OS Signal-In-Space Interface Control Document (OS SIS ICD).

The first tests used eight Galileo satellites for around two hours on November 18th. Tests have continued ever since, for intermittent periods, and will continue over the next months.

Next steps

Upon successful completion of the internal testing phase, a public observation phase will begin, in which the OSNMA signal will be publicly accessible.

In preparation of this phase, the OSNMA user Signal-In-Space Interface Control Document (OSNMA SIS ICD), receiver implementation guidelines, and the necessary cryptographic materials will be published.
This will allow receiver manufacturers and application developers to test and prepare their products.

During the public observation phase, feedback will be gathered from users, leading to the consolidation of the service.

Links :

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Global shark and ray population crashed more than 70% in past 50 years – study

A hammerhead shark. Half of the world’s 31 oceanic shark species are now listed as either endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Photograph: Jorge Silva/Reuters

From The Guardian by Oliver Milman

Increase in fishing since the 1970s has ravaged abundance of sharks and rays in oceans

The global population of sharks and rays has crashed by more than 70% in the past 50 years, researchers have determined for the first time, with massive ongoing losses pushing many species towards extinction.

A huge increase in fishing since 1970 has ravaged the abundance of sharks and rays in our oceans, with previously widespread species such as hammerhead sharks now facing the threat of being wiped out, the study found.

Half of the world’s 31 oceanic shark species are now listed as either endangered or critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The giant manta ray is also endangered.

“The decline isn’t stopping, which is a problem,” said Nathan Pacoureau, a researcher at Simon Fraser University in Canada who was lead author of the study, published in Nature.
“Everything in our oceans is so depleted now.
We need proactive measures to prevent total collapse, this should be a wake up call for policy makers.”

Using a raft of previous studies and catch data, the researchers compiled the first global census for shark and ray species, finding there has been an overall 71% decline since 1970.
The losses could be even deeper in reality, with insufficient data to chart population trends back to the 1950s, when the explosion in mass industrialized fishing started.

A devil ray, one of the oceanic rays in decline worldwide due to ovefishing, at a fish market in Sabah in Malaysia
photo Peter Kyne

While sharks and rays can be affected by ship strikes, oil and gas drilling and, increasingly, the climate crisis, the researchers said that overfishing was the primary cause of decline.
It has been previously estimated that 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year, overwhelming their slow reproductive capacity to replenish numbers.

Sharks are often killed unintentionally by fishers using nets to catch other marine creatures but are also targeted for purposes such as making shark fin soup, which involves sharks having their fins hacked off before their helpless bodies are discarded back into the ocean.

“Ongoing declines show that we are not protecting a vital part of our ocean ecosystems from overfishing, and this will lead to continued decline in the health of our oceans until we do something about it,” said Dr Cassandra Rigby, a biologist at James Cook University in Australia and study co-author.

The research highlights the patchwork quality of fisheries management around the world.
Steep declines in shark and ray numbers in the Atlantic Ocean began to stabilize somewhat after 2000 amid conservation measures, while the rate of loss has also slowed in the Pacific Ocean.
But in the Indian Ocean, shark and ray abundance had plummeted continually since 1970, with an estimated drop of 84% in overall population in this time.

Many species of shark are migratory, meaning their protection requires the cooperation of different countries, while much of the harmful fishing occurs in the largely ungoverned high seas.
Previous international efforts to stem losses have had limited impact, although overfishing is set to be raised at a virtual oceans and climate summit this week featuring John Kerry, the US’s new climate envoy.

Governments need to enforce “science-based catch limits” on a domestic and regional basis to ensure sharks continue their vital roles as ecosystem predators and protein source for poorer communities, Rigby said.
Mariah Pfleger, marine scientist at Oceana, added that countries should also ban the sale and trade of shark fins.
The ocean conservation group is pushing for the US to adopt such a ban, as Canada enacted in 2019.

“The findings of this paper are horrifying but ultimately not that surprising,” Pfleger said.
“We have long known that many species of sharks and rays cannot withstand extensive commercial fishing pressure.”

Links :

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Uncharted waters: The autonomous ship that will transform ocean science

From FT by IBM

Ocean research non-profit ProMare is building a fully-autonomous, unmanned ship, that will replicate the historic journey from Plymouth UK to Plymouth US, navigated by IBM’s AI and edge computing technologies

The ocean was Brett Phaneuf’s playground.
The submarine builder, now based in Plymouth, UK, grew up in Boston on the East Coast of the United States.
He spent much of his spare time as a youth swimming and diving.
Later he studied marine archaeology at Texas A&M University, before switching to oceanography.

Brett Phaneuf, President of Submergence Group and Co-Director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (Tom Barnes for IBM & ProMare)

Phaneuf realised that one of the biggest challenges in any ocean research is collecting data at an adequate scale and depth, without endangering human life.

That was when he became interested in robotics and autonomy in ocean exploration.
With some university colleagues, he created ProMare, a small marine research non-profit.

This emerging field of technology was opening up parts of the ocean that were once inaccessible to humans − either because they were too dangerous or too hard to reach with traditional diving or ship-towed equipment.

Since then, the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies such as telematics, low-cost sensors and edge computing over the past two decades has turned Phaneuf’s hobby into a major global industry.

In 2016, Phaneuf had the idea of combining the mission of his NGO ProMare with the capabilities of a submarine manufacturing business he’d built.
The goal would be to create a fully autonomous and crewless ship capable of traversing oceans and collecting data.

“Despite two-thirds of our planet’s surface being covered in water, so far we’ve explored less than five per cent.
Autonomous technologies will help change that by providing us with safer, less expensive and more scalable options for gathering data,” says Phaneuf.

He named the vessel the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) – its official launch on 16 September 2020 was timed to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the 1620 voyage of the Mayflower that took the Pilgrims from Plymouth to the New World.

When MAS embarks on its own 3,000-mile crossing of the Atlantic in Spring 2021, it will be powered mainly by energy from the sun and piloted by artificial intelligence from IBM, the technology partner for the project.

The ship is a 15-metre-long trimaran with a long, slender hull made of aluminium.
It will be propelled by a solar-powered electric motor, with a diesel generator as backup.

MAS will be capable of updating its own route to stay safe and avoid collisions on its long voyage, which it is expected to complete in just under two weeks.
It will collect data throughout its journey.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (Credit: Oliver Dickinson for IBM & ProMare)

“We are doing it to push the boundaries of marine research and many other ocean industries,” says Phaneuf, who is Co-Director of the Mayflower Autonomous Ship project.
“The possible applications of marine AI are huge – from ocean science, through commercial shipping, to oil and gas, security and defence.”

Mike Stevens, Executive Director of the Navy League of the United States, and retired 13th Master Chief Petty Officer of the US Navy, says that the MAS project will help “revolutionise” the maritime industry.
“What happens in the oceans impacts all of our lives, whether we know that or not,” he says.
“This technology will play a vital role on how we conduct our lives on a day-to-day basis.
This is just the beginning – who knows where it’s going to go.”

AI and autonomy

Autonomy is a spectrum.
At one end is cruise control in a car.
At the other is the Mayflower Autonomous Ship, which requires no human intervention to sense, think and make decisions at sea.
Humans can help guide the ship in problematic or high-risk situations; however, for most of its transatlantic voyage the ship will be on its own.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship (Credit: Tom Barnes for IBM & ProMare)

The core of the ship’s autonomous technology is a new class of marine AI developed by Phaneuf’s team and known informally as the AI Captain.

The MAS will have the same data set as other ships, generated by on-board radar, sonar, GPS, Automatic Identification System (AIS) and weather station.
However, the AI Captain has some notable differences.
For example, it has multiple on-board digital cameras which feed into the ship’s computer vision system running on IBM Maximo Visual Inspection software, which is normally used in manufacturing and civil engineering to spot faults.

Over the past two years the system has been trained on millions of maritime images from open source databases, as well as those collected by Phaneuf’s team at their R&D station in the Plymouth Sound in the UK.

It can now recognise and distinguish other ships, buoys, breakwaters, pieces of land and floating debris.
Correctly identifying their characteristics and knowing how certain obstacles behave, and how to steer clear of them, is vital to avoiding accidents.

The AI Captain collates data to build a hazard map for the ship.
It then uses IBM’s decision automation software to assess the current situation against the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea – the rules of the sea.

Ray Spicer, Vice President, Defense and Intelligence at IBM Federal

This rules-based software, called Operational Decision Manager, is used throughout the financial services industry to authorize loans or to personalize customer offers.

Because MAS can’t rely on a stable network connection in the middle of the ocean, the ship’s systems run on small, powerful computing devices installed deep inside the central hull, which synch with the IBM Cloud when bandwidth allows.
This ‘edge computing system’ also helps to reduce latency and increase the speed of decision making.

“The qualities that you look for in a great naval captain come from years of experience at sea – having a keen awareness of all the factors that can affect the performance and safety of your ship and crew,” says Ray Spicer, Vice President, Defense and Intelligence at IBM Federal, and retired Navy rear admiral.
“A good captain takes all those factors into consideration, weighs the risks and makes critical decisions which are often required immediately, as dictated by the situation.
Replicating what makes a good captain with AI is no small feat – you can’t teach experience - but it is certainly within the realm of possibility to train these systems to be highly capable to operate autonomously.”

I want to be able to say to people that this can be done.

Despite the many difficulties such a venture poses, Phaneuf remains confident: 
"I want kids today to be fearless and have the determination to achieve. It’s about science and adventure. Rekindling a sense of wonder. We have to succeed.”

Links : 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Google's mega-capacity new transatlantic submarine cable is ready for action

From ZDNet by Liam Tung

Google's Transatlantic Dunant submarine cable system is ready for service, almost two-and-a-half years after announcing the project to bolster network capacity and resilience for Google Cloud customers.

The Dunant subsea cable connects Virginia Beach in the US with Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez on the French Atlantic coast, becoming Google's 14th subsea cable.
Dunant is one of Google's recent private subsea cables, including: Curie, between Chile and Los Angeles; Equiano, between Portugal and South Africa; and Grace Hopper, a cable connecting New York to London, UK and Bilbao, Spain.

Image Credit: Dunant Submarine Cable System

Dunant, says Google in a blogpost, "expands Google's global network to add dedicated capacity, diversity, and resilience, while enabling interconnection to other network infrastructure in the region."

The cable has the capacity to deliver a massive 250 terabits per second across the Atlantic.

Google explains Dunant features a 12 fiber pair space-division multiplexing (SDM) design, a first of its kind. This design allows pump lasers and optical components to be shared among multiple fiber pairs and improves system availability.

The new capacity from Durant should help customers run apps better in the cloud and take advantage of the latest in machine learning in the cloud. 

The next subsea cable to come online will be the Grace Hopper, scheduled to go live in 2022.It will give Google Cloud a massive global network of fiber optic links and subsea cables to support its 24 Google Cloud Platform regions, and over 100 Cloud CDN locations.

Google parent Alphabet yesterday reported that Google Cloud brought in revenue of $3.83 billion on losses of $1.24 billion for Q4 2020.
The cloud business includes includes Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Google Workspace (formerly G Suite).
This was the first earnings update Alphabet broke out Google Cloud earnings.
Google Cloud's full-year 2020 revenues were $13,059 billion, up 50% year-on-year, but it made a hefty loss of $5.61 billion. Google is beefing up its Google Cloud business.
Google Cloud was the largest component of new hires in Q4 of 4,149 people.

New other submarine cable :
The AmitiƩ cable system (consortium comprises Facebook, Microsoft, Aqua Comms, Vodafone (through Cable & Wireless Americas Systems, Inc.) is a 6600 km trans-Atlantic submarine cable connecting Massachusetts in the U.S., Le Porge in France, and Bude in the United Kingdom.

Links :

Monday, February 8, 2021

In the oceans, the volume is rising as never before

Cargo on its way to the port of Vancouver in British Columbia.
Credit...Alana Paterson for The New York Times

From NYTimes by Sabrina Imbler

A new review of the scientific literature confirms that anthropogenic noise is becoming unbearable for undersea life.

Although clown fish are conceived on coral reefs, they spend the first part of their lives as larvae drifting in the open ocean.
The fish are not yet orange, striped or even capable of swimming.
They are still plankton, a term that comes from the Greek word for “wanderer,” and wander they do, drifting at the mercy of the currents in an oceanic rumspringa.

When the baby clown fish grow big enough to swim against the tide, they high-tail it home.
The fish can’t see the reef, but they can hear its snapping, grunting, gurgling, popping and croaking.
These noises make up the soundscape of a healthy reef, and larval fish rely on these soundscapes to find their way back to the reefs, where they will spend the rest of their lives — that is, if they can hear them.

But humans — and their ships, seismic surveys, air guns, pile drivers, dynamite fishing, drilling platforms, speedboats and even surfing — have made the ocean an unbearably noisy place for marine life, according to a sweeping review of the prevalence and intensity of the impacts of anthropogenic ocean noise published on Thursday in the journal Science.
The paper, a collaboration among 25 authors from across the globe and various fields of marine acoustics, is the largest synthesis of evidence on the effects of oceanic noise pollution.

“They hit the nail on the head,” said Kerri Seger, a senior scientist at Applied Ocean Sciences who was not involved with the research.
“By the third page, I was like, ‘I’m going to send this to my students.’”

Anthropogenic noise often drowns out the natural soundscapes, putting marine life under immense stress.
In the case of baby clown fish, the noise can even doom them to wander the seas without direction, unable to find their way home.

“The cycle is broken,” said Carlos Duarte, a marine ecologist at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and the lead author on the paper.
“The soundtrack of home is now hard to hear, and in many cases has disappeared.”

Drowning out the signals

ImageSeismic air guns on a seismic vessel in waters off Brazil.
Credit...Leo Francini/Alamy

In the ocean, visual cues disappear after tens of yards, and chemical cues dissipate after hundreds of yards.
But sound can travel thousands of miles and link animals across oceanic basins and in darkness, Dr.
Duarte said.
As a result, many marine species are impeccably adapted to detect and communicate with sound.
Dolphins call one another by unique names.
Toadfish hum.
Bearded seals trill.
Whales sing.

Scientists have been aware of underwater anthropogenic noise, and how far it propagates, for around a century, according to Christine Erbe, the director of the Center for Marine Science and Technology at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, and an author on the paper.
But early research on how noise might affect marine life focused on how individual large animals responded to temporary noise sources, such as a whale taking a detour around oil rigs during its migration.

The new study maps out how underwater noise affects countless groups of marine life, including zooplankton and jellyfish.
“The extent of the problem of noise pollution has only recently dawned on us,” Dr. Erbe wrote in an email.

The idea for the paper came to Dr. Duarte seven years ago.
He had been aware of the importance of ocean sound for much of his long career as an ecologist, but he felt that the issue was not recognized on a global scale.
Dr. Duarte found that the scientific community that focused on ocean soundscapes was relatively small and siloed, with marine mammal vocalizations in one corner, and underwater seismic activity, acoustic tomography and policymakers in other, distant corners.
“We’ve all been on our little gold rushes,” said Steve Simpson, a marine biologist at the University of Exeter in England and an author on the paper.

Dr. Duarte wanted to bring together the various corners to synthesize all the evidence they had gathered into a single conversation; maybe something this grand would finally result in policy changes.

The authors screened more than 10,000 papers to ensure they captured every tendril of marine acoustics research from the past few decades, according to Dr. Simpson.
Patterns quickly emerged demonstrating the detrimental effects that noise has on almost all marine life.
“With all that research, you realize you know more than you think you know,” he said.

The endangered Maui dolphin is bound to a specific biogeographic range and cannot relocate to quieter waters.
Credit...Richard Robinson/Nature Picture Library, via Alamy

Dr. Simpson has studied underwater bioacoustics — how fish and marine invertebrates perceive their environment and communicate through sound — for 20 years.
Out in the field, he became accustomed to waiting for a passing ship to rumble by before going back to work studying the fish.
“I realized, ‘Oh wait, these fish experience ships coming by every day,’” he said.

Marine life can adapt to noise pollution by swimming, crawling or oozing away from it, which means some animals are more successful than others.
Whales can learn to skirt busy shipping lanes and fish can dodge the thrum of an approaching fishing vessel, but benthic creatures like slow-moving sea cucumbers have little recourse.

If the noise settles in more permanently, some animals simply leave for good.
When acoustic harassment devices were installed to deter seals from preying on salmon farms in the Broughton Archipelago in British Columbia, killer whale populations declined significantly until the devices were removed, according to a 2002 study.

These forced evacuations reduce population sizes as more animals give up territory and compete for the same pools of resources.
And certain species that are bound to limited biogeographic ranges, such as the endangered Maui dolphin, have nowhere else to go.
“Animals can’t avoid the sound because it’s everywhere,” Dr. Duarte said.

Even temporary sounds can cause chronic hearing damage in the sea creatures unlucky enough to be caught in the acoustic wake.
Both fish and marine mammals have hair cells, sensory receptors for hearing.
Fish can regrow these cells, but marine mammals probably cannot.

Luckily, unlike greenhouse gases or chemicals, sound is a relatively controllable pollutant.
“Noise is about the easiest problem to solve in the ocean,” Dr. Simpson said.
“We know exactly what causes noise, we know where it is, and we know how to stop it.”
In search of quiet

Many solutions to anthropogenic noise pollution already exist, and are even quite simple.
“Slow down, move the shipping lane, avoid sensitive areas, change propellers,” Dr. Simpson said.
Many ships rely on propellers that cause a great deal of cavitation: Tiny bubbles form around the propeller blade and produce a horrible screeching noise.
But quieter designs exist, or are in the works.

“Propeller design is a very fast-moving technological space,” Dr. Simpson said.
Other innovations include bubble curtains, which can wrap around a pile driver and insulate the sound.

The researchers also flagged deep-sea mining as an emergent industry that could become a major source of underwater noise, and suggested that new technologies could be designed to minimize sound before commercial mining starts.

The authors hope the review connects with policymakers, who have historically ignored noise as a significant anthropogenic stressor on marine life.
The United Nations Law of the Sea B.B.N.J. agreement, a document that manages biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, does not mention noise among its list of cumulative impacts.

The U.N.’s 14th sustainable development goal, which focuses on underwater life, does not explicitly mention noise, according to Dr.
Seger of Applied Ocean Sciences.
“The U.N. had an ocean noise week where they sat down and listened to it and then went on to another topic,” she said.

The paper in Science went through three rounds of editing, the last of which occurred after Covid-19 had created many unplanned experiments: Shipping activity slowed down, the oceans fell relatively silent, and marine mammals and sharks returned to previously noisy waterways where they were rarely seen.
“Recovery can be almost immediate,” Dr. Duarte said.

Alive with sound

Squat lobsters on Seamont X, a submarine volcano in the Philippine Sea.
Credit...NOAA Vents Program

A healthy ocean is not a silent ocean — hail crackling into white-crested waves, glaciers thudding into water, gases burbling from hydrothermal vents, and countless creatures chittering, rasping and singing are all signs of a normal environment.
One of the 20 authors on the paper is the multimedia artist Jana Winderen, who created a six-minute audio track that shifts from a healthy ocean — the calls of bearded seals, snapping crustaceans and rain — to a disturbed ocean, with motorboats and pile driving.

A year ago, while studying invasive species in sea grass meadows in waters near Greece, Dr. Duarte was just about to come up for air when he heard a horrendous rumble above him: “a huge warship on top of me, going at full speed.”
He stayed glued to the seafloor until the navy vessel passed, careful to slow down his breathing and not deplete his tank.
Around 10 minutes later, the sound ebbed and Dr. Duarte was able to come up safely for air.
“I have sympathy for these creatures,” he said.

When warships and other anthropogenic noises cease, sea grass meadows have a soundscape entirely their own.
In the daytime, the photosynthesizing meadows generate tiny bubbles of oxygen that wobble up the water column, growing until they burst.
All together, the bubble blasts make a scintillating sound like many little bells, beckoning larval fish to come home.

Links :

Sunday, February 7, 2021