First Underwater Research Drone Tracks CO2 in Alaska Gulf
First Underwater Research Drone Tracks CO2 in Alaska Gulf

Alaska, 26 May (ONA) --- A 1.52-meter-long sea glider believed to be the first one configured with a large sensor to measure carbon dioxide levels in the occasion had completed its first overnight mission in Alaska’s Resurrection Bay.

The researchers, aboard the Nanuq, a University of Alaska Fairbanks research vessel, deployed the autonomous glider which is designed to dive 1,000 meters down and roam remote parts of the ocean to provide a deeper understanding of the ocean’s chemistry in the era of climate change.

The research could be a major step forward in ocean greenhouse gas monitoring, because until now, measuring CO2 concentrations — a quantifier of ocean acidification — was mostly done from ships, buoys and moorings tethered to the ocean floor.

“Ocean acidification is a process by which humans are emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere through their activities of burning fossil fuels and changing land use,” said Andrew McDonnell, an oceanographer with the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks

Oceans have done humans a huge favor by taking in some of the C02. Otherwise, there would be much more in the atmosphere, trapping the sun’s heat and warming the Earth.

“But the problem is now that the ocean is changing its chemistry because of this uptake,” said Claudine Hauri, an oceanographer with the International Arctic Research Centre.

The enormous amount of data collected is being used to study ocean acidification that can harm and kill certain marine life.

Rising acidity of the oceans is affecting some marine organisms that build shells. This process could kill or make an organism more susceptible to predators.

Richard Feely, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Senior Scientist at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle said that the challenge is to make the measurement on a glider with the same degree of accuracy and precision as tests on board ships.

“We need to get confidence in our measurements and confidence in our models if we are going to make important scientific statements about how the oceans are changing over time and how it’s going to impact our important economic systems that are dependent on the food from the sea,” he said, noting that acidification impacts are already seen in the Pacific Northwest on oysters, Dungeness crabs and other species.

The vision is to one day have a fleet of robotic gliders operating in oceans across the globe, providing a real-time glimpse of current conditions and a way to better predict the future, the Associated Press reported.

--- Ends/Anas