Friday, June 30, 2017

Boaty McBoatface Is Back From Its First Climate Mission and Has More Data Than Scientists Expected

Ada Carr
Published: June 30,2017

The remotely operated submarine known as "Boaty McBoatface" is lowered into the water.
(British Antarctic Survey)
The submarine with the best name ever has returned from its inaugural voyage, and scientists say it has brought back an unprecedented amount of data about some of the coldest waters on Earth.
Dubbed “Boaty McBoatface” in May 2016, the yellow remotely operated submarine was sent to the Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) and returned with information about the temperature, underwater turbulence and water flow speed in the Orkney Passage, which is more than 13,100 feet deep and about 500 miles from the Antarctic Peninsula, according to a release from the University of Southampton.
“Fresh from its maiden voyage, Boaty is already delivering new insight into some of the coldest ocean waters on Earth, giving scientists a greater understanding of changes in the Antarctic region and shaping a global effort to tackle climate change,” United Kingdom Minister of State for Universities and Science Jo Johnson said in the release.
The data collected by Boaty will allow the scientists to investigate how these mixing waters affect climate change.
The AABW flows through the Orkney Passage and forms along the Southern Ocean as the water cools and becomes denser underneath ice shelves, and as a result of cold downward flowing wind coming off of the ice sheet, according to the British Antarctic Survey. As the water's density increases, it sinks to the seafloor and flows northwards, where it becomes part of the global circulation of ocean water.
Fast-moving flow is more turbulent and mixes warmer waters from shallower ocean layers into the AABW, according to the release. This causes the waters to warm as they move toward the Equator, which affects global climate change.
“Our goal is to learn enough about these convoluted processes to represent them, for the first time, in the models that scientists use to predict how our climate will evolve over the 21st century and beyond,” Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow (DYnOPO) lead scientist Alberto Naveira Garabato said in the release.
The small sub completed three missions over the course of the expedition, with the longest journey lasting three days and covering more than 111 miles, according to the release. In the Orkney Passage, it passed through water colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We have been able to collect massive amounts of data that we have never been able to capture before due to the way Boaty (Autosub Long Range) is able to move underwater,” said Garabato. “Up until now we have only been able to take measurements from a fixed point, but now, we are able to obtain a much more detailed picture of what is happening in this very important underwater landscape.”
Boaty received its name after a poll was launched to name the Natural Environment Research Council’s British polar vessel.
Despite overwhelming results in favor of Boaty McBoatface, the council named the vessel after famous broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough and bestowed the more popular name upon the remotely operated submarine.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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