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CHIPS Articles: Navy Knowledge Advances; Arctic Ocean Ice Retreats

Navy Knowledge Advances; Arctic Ocean Ice Retreats
By David Smalley, ONR Corporate Strategic Communications - February 5, 2015
ARLINGTON, Va.—Scientists sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) revealed today the latest findings from a study on Arctic sea ice—with one expert noting that summer sea ice levels could potentially fall to zero before the end of this century.

Speaking at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology EXPO , scientists presented initial findings from ONR’s Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ) experiment that took place last year in the Arctic Ocean—the largest research effort ever using robotic technologies to investigate ice conditions where the frozen ocean meets the open ocean.

“There’s no question that the Arctic sea ice extent is decreasing,” said Dr. Martin Jeffries, program officer for the ONR Arctic and Global Prediction Program. “Multiple sources of data—autonomous underwater gliders, ice-measuring buoys and satellite images of the Marginal Ice Zone—were used to help understand why the ice is retreating.”

The implications for the Navy, and the world, are significant. If there were no sea ice in the Arctic at the end of summer, that would mean that the Arctic Ocean would, until the winter ice came in, be completely open—something unprecedented in living memory, Jeffries noted. Naval leaders have made it clear that understanding a changing Arctic is essential for the Navy to be prepared to respond effectively to future needs.

“The opening of the Arctic Ocean has important national security implications as well as significant impacts on the U.S. Navy’s required future capabilities,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, in his introduction to the U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap. “The United States has a history of maritime homeland security and homeland defense concerns in the Arctic Region.”

In the period between 2007 and 2014, satellites recorded the eight lowest sea ice levels ever. One of the key goals of the MIZ program, which runs through 2017, is to use new data to make better predictive computer models—ensuring safer operations for not only naval vessels, but also anticipated increased sea traffic by shipping and fishing industries; oil, gas and mining companies; and tourism operations.

In addition to gaining insights from the atmosphere, ice and ocean to help understand changing sea ice levels, the MIZ program has proved the importance of new robotic technologies, experts said at the EXPO. Much of the data coming in to Arctic scientists is now from improved sensors, with greater ability to survive the harsh weather and ocean conditions.

Some of those technologies include Seagliders—autonomous underwater vehicles that measure the salinity, temperature and optical properties of the water, both on and below the ice; buoys that measure thickness and temperature of the ice; and dropsondes—small sensors released from the air to obtain improved atmospheric measurements.

“The data from the MIZ experiments confirm how important it is to better understand the Arctic atmosphere, ice, ocean and ocean surface waves,” said Jeffries. “The newer robotic measuring capabilities being used by ONR-sponsored researchers are proving essential for us to better understand the region.”

A video of ONR-sponsored Arctic researchers at work can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UUj09pWEX4&feature=youtu.be .

Office of Naval Research
E-mail: onrcsc@onr.navy.mil
Web: www.onr.navy.mil
Facebook: www.facebook.com/officeofnavalresearch

Seaglider is 1.8 m long and weighs 52 kg—a size and weight that allow easy launching and recovery by two people from a small boat. ONR image.
Seaglider is 1.8 m long and weighs 52 kg—a size and weight that allow easy launching and recovery by two people from a small boat. ONR image.

Seaglider's cylindrical hull is a series of arched anodized aluminum panels separated by ring frames. The hull is surrounded by a fiberglass fairing to give it a low drag shape. ONR image.
Seaglider's cylindrical hull is a series of arched anodized aluminum panels separated by ring frames. The hull is surrounded by a fiberglass fairing to give it a low drag shape. ONR image.

After each dive Seaglider dips its nose to raise its antenna out of the water. It determines its position via GPS, calls in via Iridium data telemetry satellite, uploads the oceanographic data it just collected, then downloads a file complete with any new instructions. ONR image.
After each dive Seaglider dips its nose to raise its antenna out of the water. It determines its position via GPS, calls in via Iridium data telemetry satellite, uploads the oceanographic data it just collected, then downloads a file complete with any new instructions. ONR image.

Seaglider can travel at slopes as gentle as 1:5 or as steep as 3:1. At gentle glide slopes the vehicle transits most efficiently, while steeper slopes are used to maintain position and act as a "virtual mooring."  
 
Seaglider can travel at slopes as gentle as 1:5 or as steep as 3:1. At gentle glide slopes the vehicle transits most efficiently, while steeper slopes are used to maintain position and act as a "virtual mooring."  ONR image.
Seaglider can travel at slopes as gentle as 1:5 or as steep as 3:1. At gentle glide slopes the vehicle transits most efficiently, while steeper slopes are used to maintain position and act as a "virtual mooring." Seaglider can travel at slopes as gentle as 1:5 or as steep as 3:1. At gentle glide slopes the vehicle transits most efficiently, while steeper slopes are used to maintain position and act as a "virtual mooring." ONR image.

Flare Tube adaptor designed to convert a C-130 flare-tube into a device that allows deployment of dropsondes and Sonobuoy Type -A devices. ONR image.
Flare Tube adaptor designed to convert a C-130 flare-tube into a device that allows deployment of dropsondes and Sonobuoy Type -A devices. ONR image.
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