Follow the Saildrone 2018
16 July - New Tools for Ocean Observing 'Tool Box'
ARCTIC DBO-NCIS UPDATE: Multi-platform collaborative studies are becoming more and more common as technology develops. The combination of diverse tools and institutional perspectives allows scientists to assess more complex questions and explore more remote regions than ever before.
"The saildrones are definitely a big part of that movement," said Cross. "Their large size means that they can carry a very big payload with many sensors simultaneously collecting data."
And, they’re also fast-- the latest design is currently averaging speeds between 3 and 4 kts at the start of our mission here. This speed is key to this mission. The saildrones have a very long transit ahead of them: they’ll sail all the way through the Bering Sea and up through Bering Strait to the Northern Chukchi Integrated Study area in the northern Chukchi Sea, over 700 nautical miles from launch point. Covering that distance simply wouldn't’t be possible with a slower platform.
Once the saildrones make the delicate navigational transit through the high-traffic Strait, they’ll split up; one will head towards a Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) zone over the Chukchi continental shelf. The DBO is a network of sites in the Pacific Arctic that are designed as an ecosystem change detection array. The sites aren’t only distributed in space-- the international community also occupies the sites as often as possible, so that together all these visits form a distributed time series at each site. One saildrone will monitor DBO sites 2-5 that are part of this year’s NCIS mission. The other saildrone will participate in a spatial mapping activity, collecting data over the Chukchi Sea shelf and shelf break. If there’s time, we’ll pursue the extreme ice melt experienced this year in the Canada Basin.
The two biogeochemical saildrones involved in this mission are part of the Northern Chukchi Integrated Study sponsored by NOAA’s Arctic Research Program (Arctic-NCIS) with support from the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program and the NOAA Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration Program.
13 July - Using Saildrones to Extend Traditional Ship-based Survey
ARCTIC EIS Phase II UPDATE: Every other year, the NOAA Fisheries conducts an acoustic-trawl survey of the eastern Bering Sea in summer to estimate the distribution and abundance of walleye pollock. We have found during other surveys in the Eastern and Northern Bering Sea that pollock populations seem to be increasing in areas to the northeast of the traditional acoustic-trawl survey area. This year, the survey was extended further north to look for pollock that may be outside of the standard survey area (in the orange area of the map).
To increase the survey coverage, we are using saildrones to conduct two additional survey lines or transects in the green area during their journey from Dutch Harbor to the Bering Strait. We wanted to get an idea of how much pollock might be outside of the surveyed area, and whether these transects further to the east should be include in the next acoustic-trawl survey in 2020.
It took about five days for both saildrones to run the 280 nautical mile extensions. All systems appear to be working perfectly, and the data that we have received via satellite looks great. The survey lines were completed, and the saildrones are on their way around the east side of St. Lawrence Island and heading towards Bering Strait.
In 2016 and 2017, we worked with a team that installed echosounders (the fishfinders) on saildrones and deployed them in the Bering Sea to measure the abundance of fish in an area where fur seals feed. The echosounder measures fish by transmitting a sound pulse and measuring the sound waves echoing back from fish in the water. By making repeated measurements as it moves through an area, the saildrone can map the abundance of fish. It is difficult to distinguish different species and sizes of fish with the echosounder, so this works best in areas like the Arctic, where a single species and size of fish dominates fish populations in the water. Equipped with echosounders, saildrones are great tools for such regions, where their ability to travel to isolated areas under their own power, stay at sea for many months, and cover a lot of ground can help provide fisheries data in remote areas.
10 July - A series of strong storms will bring active weather to the Bering Sea region this weekend
This week, as our drones make way north to the Arctic, they are encountering some interesting weather. An intense low-pressure center, especially for this time of year, is moving north along the west coast of Alaska. This includes very strong winds from the north that are being observed on St. Lawrence Island and in the vicinity of Bering Strait.
“Winds of this magnitude are observed no more than 1% of the time in this region in July, and so this is a highly unusual event,” said Nick Bond, Washington State Climatologist and Research Scientist with PMEL.
With sustained speeds of about 35 knots with higher gusts, this is not the worst weather the drones have seen before.
“We are operating well, as expected, despite encountering these winds,” said Calvin Mordy, University of Washington’s Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean Oceanographer at NOAA. “The saildrones continue to prove their ability to forge through harsh arctic weather.”
NOAA’s National Weather Service has a Gale Warning in effect, with winds decreasing into the weekend.
6 July - Understanding More About Arctic Cod
ARCTIC EIS Phase II UPDATE: We are using echosounders on two of the drones heading to the Arctic this year to determine the amount and distribution of Arctic cod, a fish that just about everything in Arctic waters eats; species of seals, whales, and seabirds depend on them. The drones will later partner with moorings and ships in the Northern Chukchi to assess important questions about Arctic cod populations.
One of the main things we’re trying to do is repeat a ship-based survey over the Chukchi Sea that we have been conducting in recent years. What we have learned from this and other work in the area is that there are very high abundances of young Arctic cod about two inches long (i.e. their first year of life) in the Chukchi Sea, but few adults in the area.
We are trying to understand whether this area serves as a nursery ground, with these fish migrating to other areas in the Arctic, or whether these fish don't survive the winter. Additionally, we know that the environment these fish are living in is undergoing rapid change. Temperatures have increased substantially. The amount and duration of sea ice has decreased. But, we don't know how this will affect the Arctic cod.
The work this year will add another year of observations to help us understand the impact of the changing environment on the distribution of these fish. Since they were launched on June 30, the drones have already made it about 600 nautical miles into their journey, ready to start three months of science in the Arctic.
The saildrones involved in this mission (Arctic EIS Phase II) are contributing to the Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Study Phase II sponsored by the NOAA Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration Program with support from The North Pacific Research Board and NOAA Fisheries.
1 July - Drone View
Each drone has four cameras, positioned on the mast of the wing to aid in vehicle performance and often provide a glimpse into the research missions from the point of view of the drone. Below are some images captured during the launch period the first week of July 2018. You can see some more fun images we caught last year, including snow and a little seal hauled out on the drones!
30 June - LAUNCHED
Monitoring a Changing Arctic
30 June 2018 (Dutch Harbor, AK) - Over the last week, Saildrone Inc. and NOAA have launched the first batch of saildrones in Alaska, Washington and California to enhance our understanding of fisheries, ocean acidification and climate science.
Four of these saildrones launched from Dutch Harbor, Alaska this past weekend and will make their way northward, surveying more than 20,000 miles, through Bering Strait to measure carbon dioxide and the abundance of Arctic cod in the Arctic Ocean. These two missions will gather measurements to identify ongoing changes to the Arctic ecosystem and how changes may affect the food-chain as well as large-scale climate and weather systems.
Alex De Robertis, Fishery Scientist with NOAA Fisheries’ Alaska Fisheries Science Center, is mapping fish with sound to determine the amount and distribution of Arctic cod, a fish that just about everything in Arctic waters eats; species of seals, whales, and seabirds depend on them. Two drones will survey the same remote locations as previous ship-based surveys in hopes of demystifying the story of Arctic cod as temperatures and ice cover change in the Arctic.
“We are trying to unravel the puzzle of what happens to young Arctic cod that are so abundant in the summer on the Chukchi Sea shelf but then mature into comparatively few adult fish by the next year,” says Alex De Robertis, NOAA Fisheries biologist. “They either move to other areas or don’t survive the winter. What is their fate?”
Last year was the first time the drones journeyed through the Bering Strait into the Arctic with a newly adapted system to measure carbon dioxide concentrations. Jessica Cross, NOAA Oceanographer at PMEL, continues to use saildrones to study how the Arctic Ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide to help improve weather and climate forecasting and our understanding of ocean acidification in these critical ecosystem areas.
“The saildrone is an amazing device and provides us with an array of information, in some cases information that hasn't been readily available,” said Dr. Cross. “Last summer, two saildrones journeyed north through the Bering Strait for the first time. We’re headed back to the Arctic this summer to learn more about rapid environmental changes occurring here.”
These two missions will continue to further demonstrate the operation of these platforms at high-latitudes through the first fully autonomous acoustic fish survey and field tests of an updated carbon dioxide system that was re-designed to address challenges observed during the 2017 mission.
Saildrones powered by wind and the sun’s rays, have traveled about 50,000 miles on NOAA missions with Pacific Marine Environmental Lab scientists, about twice the distance it takes to circumnavigate the earth — since the partnership began in 2014. Each year, Saildrone Inc. refines these vehicles for data collection with NOAA scientists who have helped integrate 18 sensors into the drone. These sensors are capable of collecting measurements such as air and water temperature, wave height, salinity, carbon dioxide concentration, fish abundance and the presence of marine mammals.
The Saildrones are packed with about 20 instruments from the top of their masts down to the bottom of their keels. "These are basically sensor platforms. So, we are getting more data back to make smarter decisions with the ship time that we do have," said NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Director of Engineering Chris Meinig. "We really see the ship time as critical, but how do we augment in this ever-challenging funding environment, right?”
NOAA and Saildrone, Inc. are embarking on the fifth year of collaboration and novel data collection using saildrones to better understand how changes in the ocean are affecting weather, climate, fisheries and marine mammals.
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19 June - On their way!
After several weeks of final testing and pre-mission shakedown cruises, the four drones have been loaded into containers and are en-route to Dutch Harbor for deployment.
01 May - 2018 Saildrone Missions Overview
This mission will be focused on collecting sea-air carbon dioxide (CO2) flux measurements as well as currents, in regionally focused areas of the Chukchi Sea with some work south of Bering Strait for baseline observations and reconnaissance in partnership with the Distributed Biological Laboratory, Northern Chukchi Integrated Study sponsored by NOAA’s Arctic Research Program (Arctic-NCIS).
The overall goal of DBO-NCIS is to document and understand ongoing changes to the Pacific-Arctic ecosystem. In conjunction with the DBO program, the NCIS aims to elucidate the physical-biological links that result in ecologically important hotspots in the Northern Bering and Chukchi Seas and Canada Basin
This mission will be focused on conducting an acoustic survey to determine the distribution of pelagic fishes within the U.S. Continental Shelf Region of the Chukchi Sea. This survey will provide data during a gap ship year of a research program investigating mechanisms that influence the distribution and interaction of biology in the region.
The saildrones in this mission will conduct a fisheries & surface oceanographic survey of the Chukchi Sea with transects extending to coastal regions of the Beaufort Sea to support research objectives within the Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Survey, Phase II. This work will support the dissertation of University of Washington graduate student Robert Levine.
The primary operating region will be the Chukchi Sea, with focused efforts conducted in the vicinity of 3 bottom-mounted echosounder moorings. The survey is a replicate of the ship-based survey conducted during the 2017 Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Survey Phase II/ Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (AIERP). A limited amount of net sampling will be conducted on in August 2018 from the USCGC Healy. Data from this survey will provide information in a gap year of the program (ship-based surveys are supported in 2017 & 2019) to help understand how climate change will affect the distribution and abundance of Arctic cod, which are keystone species and the food source for many for marine mammals, fishes, and seabirds throughout the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
01 May - 2018 Saildrone Missions Team
We are currently prepping for the 2018 missions. In the meantime, here are the 2018 missions team members.
NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Lab ENGINEERING - CHRISTIAN MEINIG - NOAA/PMEL and NOAH LAWRENCE-SLAVAS - NOAA/PMEL RESEARCH SCIENTISTS OCEANOGRAPHY - Dr. CALVIN MORDY - JISAO/PMEL, Dr. JESSICA CROSS - NOAA/PMEL, Dr. PHYLLIS STABENO - NOAA/PMEL and Dr. NED COKELET - NOAA/PMEL FISHERIES ACOUSTICS - Dr. ALEX De ROBERTIS - NOAA/AFSC and ROBERT LEVINE - UW/AFSC NON-FEDERAL PARTNERS RICHARD JENKINS - SAILDRONE INC., IVAR WANGEN - SIMRAD AS/KONGSBERG PROJECT COORDINATOR HEATHER TABISOLA - JISAO/PMEL
01 February - Where We Left Off
In 2017, we pushed observational boundaries by completing the first transit through Bering strait, the first arctic basin observations, reaching within 7 nm from sea ice edge; and the farthest north an ASV has traversed - all with the saildrone. For 2018, we are pushing those boundaries farther in the Chukchi. While we will not have any fur seal or whale research this season, we will focus on fish acoustic surveys and furthering the ocean acidification research from past years.
There are two missions planned for the Chukchi Sea in 2018. In partnership with the Distributed Biological Observatory, Northern Chukchi Integrated Study (Arctic DBO-NCIS, sponsored by NOAA’s Arctic Research Program), two Saildrones will measure currents and collect sea-air carbon dioxide (CO2) flux measurements in regionally focused areas of the Chukchi Sea with some work south of Bering Strait for baseline observations and reconnaissance. In partnership with the Arctic IES Phase II program (funded by the North Pacific Research Board), a second pair of Saildrones will conduct an acoustic fish survey (in collaboration with the Alaska Fisheries Science Center). The four Saildrones will depart from Nome or Dutch Harbor in July, sail through Bering Strait, and conduct research in the Chukchi Sea for several months. The missions will further demonstrate the operation of these platforms at high-latitudes, provide the first fully autonomous acoustic fish survey, and provide field tests of an updated ASVCO2 system that was re-designed to address challenges observed during the 2017 mission. To the extent possible, we also plan to coordinate these missions with the Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic (SODA) program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, which will be operating in the same area towards the end of the planned FY18 Saildrone missions.