Improving our understanding of the oceans relies heavily on our ability to make the required measurements in a reliable and cost effective way. Data often need to be collected over extended periods to establish seasonal or inter-annual differences, especially when attempting to identify climate change trends. For this work, sampling needs to occur over many years in order to discern a climate change signal from natural variability in the system.
Due to the high cost of operating ships and the vastness of the oceans, oceanographers have developed sampling methods that allow long time series of data to be collected while minimizing the required ship time. For decades, instrument moorings have been deployed around the world to make unattended, continuous oceanographic measurements for periods of a year or longer. Instruments along a mooring line regularly sample parameters such as current, temperature and salinity and store these data on internal memory until the mooring is recovered. A ship is only required to deploy the mooring and then recover it up to 2 years later.
The ocean is a hostile environment that presents challenges to making reliable measurements. Strong currents can adversely impact mooring performance. Salt water causes instrumentation and mooring equipment to corrode. Wave forces and ocean ice can destroy moorings if they are inadequately designed to deal with these factors. There is growing demand for near-surface measurements to observe parameters such as gas exchange with the atmosphere and ice melt water. There is also demand for providing data in real time for operational and resource management activities. To deliver such capabilities, instrumentation must be at or near the surface. New technologies must be developed for many of these new requirements.
Other innovations make more efficient use of ship time, or exploit satellites as platforms for ocean measurements and tracking of ocean currents or drifting ice. A wide variety of commercially available instrumentation and measurement systems meet many of the measurement requirements of oceanographers, but sometimes needs cannot be met and new technologies must be developed.
DFO researchers at Bedford Institute of Oceanography produce new tools to meet oceanographers' requirements when suitable measurement technology does not exist or can be improved upon. Take a look at some of these innovative technologies here!
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