National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2016

Innovative technology development for Arctic exploration

Cross, J.N., C.W. Mordy, H. Tabisola, C. Meinig, E.D. Cokelet, and P.J. Stabeno

In Oceans 2015 MTS/IEEE, Marine Technology Society and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Washington, DC, 19–22 October 2015 (2015)

The US Arctic and sub-Arctic regions are rapidly changing, creating potentially large impacts to marine ecosystems and ecosystem services. However, much of the current observing technology is ill suited to fully quantify these dynamic changes. The harsh, remote environment, expansive area, and extremely fine scale features present clear barriers to the efficient collection of effective environmental intelligence. In order to meet these challenges, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, with support from Ocean and Atmospheric Research Division, has created the Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration (ITAE) program to facilitate the development of new autonomous platforms and highresolution sensing technologies that may be able to address this critical gap in mission capabilities. During the program’s primary field testing year, ITAE successfully completed two large-scale research missions in the Bering and Chukchi Seas involving multiple new Arctic-capable platforms, including the Saildrone unmanned autonomous surface vehicle (Saildrone, Inc.), the Profiling Crawler (PRAWLER; NOAA-PMEL), a moored instrument drastically improving vertical resolution of data collection; and the Expendable Ice Tracking (EXIT) Floats, which allow for under-ice data collection (NOAA-PMEL). Through these platforms, ITAE also tested a variety of novel sensing technologies, such as the recently developed microfluidic nitrate sensor, the Lab-on-a-Chip (National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton). Together, these developments helped to assess important and previously inaccessible aspects of the sea ice melt season. However, important technical challenges remain, including autonomous ecosystem assessment tools that could effectively monitor and aid management of the region’s multi-billion dollar annual commercial and subsistence fishing industries.

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