Scientists head northwards with new autonomous instruments
On 13 June 2016, a team of scientists set off to Spitsbergen on a mission to use some newly developed equipment in the Arctic Ocean, geared towards analysing the climatic changes in the Arctic and their impact on the fauna in the future with greater temporal and spatial resolution.
The scientists, from the Alfred Wegener Institute, the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), are travelling on board the German research vessel Polarstern.
The new equipment, comprising autonomous instruments on the seabed, in the water column and in the air, will complement the long-term measurements of the deep-sea research group. For the first time, an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) called Tramper will be deployed on the Arctic seabed for a year.
"The newly developed device is to measure oxygen along the depth gradients on a weekly basis. In this way, we want to quantify how the sediment-dwelling marine organisms remineralise the biomass on the sea floor," said Dr Thomas Soltwedel, deep-sea ecologist at AWI and the expedition's chief scientist.
With this mission, the scientists want to find out two main things: how climate-induced changes in the productivity of algae on the water surface, in and under the sea ice are temporally coupled to the export of nutrients in the deep sea, and how deep-sea organisms react to the presumably strong variability in food availability.
Another AUV, called PAUL, will float on a pre-programmed course through the water column, collecting water samples and detecting a range of environmental factors. PAUL has been equipped ala a small laboratory, and will measure water temperature, salinity, concentrations of nitrate, chlorophyll and oxygen, as well as a range of organic substances and the intensity of photosynthetically active radiation. PAUL can also measure the physical properties along the melt-water border on the edge of the ice of the Arctic Ocean using a built-in acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP).
Autonomous flying devices called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) will be used to understand the ice conditions above PAUL. They will measure the thickness of the snow cover and the ice coverage. The scientists can measure the extent to which sunlight (as energy) reaches the ocean under the ice. One of the UAVs will place GPS transmitters on the sea ice to record the ice drift. The data will be used to programme the AUVs' route.
Further Information: www.awi.de