OSU OC 103 - e-OC103-Lesson03 (6 pages)

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e-OC103-Lesson03



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e-OC103-Lesson03

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School:
Oregon State University
Course:
Oc 103 - Exploring The Deep: Geography Of The World's Oceans
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OC103 Lesson 3 Ocean Exploration in the Present and Future Future Oceanographic Research Today s oceanographers often participate in large scale international multidisciplinary expeditions to remote parts of the oceans New more powerful and stable ships allow year round work in rough or ice choked seas An objective of many of these large expeditions is to truly understand what governs the health of the oceans By simultaneously measuring things like water temperature biological productivity and chemical variations in seawater scientists hope to answer fundamental questions about the oceans such as what factors are important in keeping our oceans healthy and how the oceans affect climate If we can understand how the oceans work we will be able to better predict how they will respond to different management and climate change scenarios A good example of how this strategy is paying off for oceanographers is our recent success at understanding the changes in climate and ocean conditions associated with an El Ni o We will cover El Ni os in a future lesson but you have probably heard something about the unusual weather stormy seas and disrupted fisheries that are associated with El Ni os After a concerted international effort we now have a very good idea of what happens in the ocean and atmosphere during an El Ni o although much work remains to be done to better predict when an El Ni o is likely to occur OSU scientists aboard the USCG Icebreaker Healy prepare to launch an instrument to measure ocean current temperature and salinity off of the coast of Greenland Subs and Robots In addition to the large scale studies described on the previous slide other growing areas of future research are likely to take increasing advantage of technological advances to go places and do things we previously could not do Examples of this include Deep ocean exploration using manned submersibles and unmanned robots Less than 1 of the ocean floor has been explored so many new discoveries await us there o The main U S manned submersible is Alvin see image below left operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Alvin was originally built in 1964 but was significantly upgraded over the years Still its maximum depth rating was 4500 m other countries such as Japan had deeper diving subs and about 40 of the ocean floor is deeper than that A replacement for Alvin was launched in 2014 and will be able to descend to 6500 m opening up the deeper parts of the ocean to exploration by U S scientists o Remote controlled robots also called remotely operated vehicles or ROVs are rapidly becoming more reliable and capable for oceanographic work Several U S oceanographic institutions including Woods Hole Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute operate robots that remain attached tethered to a ship via a fiber optic cable that transmits video back to the ship and sends control commands back down to the ROV from the pilots and scientists on the ship Other oceanographic institutions including OSU operate free roaming AUVs autonomous underwater vehicles see image below right of an AUV being launched from a ship that can be preprogrammed to conduct surveys or collect samples in an area of interest and then set free to do their work and automatically return to the ship when they are finished As technology continues to improve AUVs will probably take over many of the oceanographic surveying duties currently conducted by humans on ships Ocean Observatories NeMO Humans have never truly had a chance to watch all that happens in the ocean Ships can take measurements at a given location for a time but what happens after the ship leaves or before it got there And how do we observe unusual and temporary events such as underwater earthquakes or volcanic eruptions By the time we can detect an underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption and get a ship to the location it is all over Also for safety reasons ships often cease scientific operations during nasty weather or avoid stormy areas entirely So how do we ever find out what happens in the ocean during a violent storm For these reasons groups of oceanographers are installing networks of instruments on the seafloor and suspended in the water that can constantly observe ocean processes and instantly send the information back to shore A prototype of one of these observatories has been operating for years off of the coast of Oregon Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA laboratory in Newport Oregon installed an ocean observatory a network of instruments called NeMO near the summit of Axial Seamount an active volcano off of the Oregon Coast to monitor the relationships between earthquakes volcanic activity and deep sea biology The figure to the right shows the network of instruments that surrounds the crater of the volcano waiting to measure how a volcanic eruption affects the surrounding seafloor and ocean waters The gray hump taking up most of the illustration is the volcano and the depression near its center with the word Axial in it is the active crater Ocean Observatories Northeast Pacific Additional ocean observatories are in the planning or construction stages in other areas of the world s oceans the largest and closest to Oregon being the NEPTUNE Project a network of fiber optic cables and scientific instruments on the ocean floor off of the coasts of Oregon Washington and British Columbia see illustration below Many of the nodes shown on the map will contain lights and cameras to observe their surroundings as well as instruments that record currents water temperatures earthquakes etc Studies From Afar and Up Close Satellite Remote Sensing Although satellites can only see the surface of the ocean they can see huge areas of the ocean all at once They have the ability for example to detect the temperature of water at the ocean surface along the entire coast of Oregon in a single satellite image It would take a ship several days to cover that same area taking temperature measurements As satellite technology continues to improve we will get better at detecting the current state of the ocean and will be able to understand how the ocean changes from season to season and year to year We already have detectors that can sense very subtle variations in temperature wave heights and chlorophyll found in tiny marine plants that are indicators of ocean productivity because they serve as the base of the marine food chain


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