Archive for October, 2009

Trick or Treat? Both if you are a geek!

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Three gliders patrol the inshore. They are flying in formation, like a graceful,,,,, but slowwww,,, pod of dolphins despite strong currents. We have three gliders in the nearshore formation (RU05, RU21, RU23). The decision in the beginning of the week will be on how to split the formation. The goal will be to provide optimal coverage of the shelf.


The major goal of the experiment is to test the planning and prosecution software of the OOI; however we have chosen this time as any data in the fall will be scientifically valuable for understanding the dynamics of the Mid-Atlantic Bight. The waters on the MAB exhibit considerable seasonal and inter-annual variability in temperature and salinity. In late spring and early summer, a strong thermocline develops at about the 20 m depth across the entire shelf, isolating a continuous mid-shelf “cold pool” (formed in winter months) that extends from Nantucket to Cape Hatteras. This stratification forms one of the most extreme coastal thermoclines on Earth with temperatures ranging from 30º to 8ºC with the majority temperature change occurring within five meters. The cold pool persists throughout the summer until fall when the water column overturns and mixes in the fall, which provides a source of nutrients to the MAB shelf. Thermal stratification re-develops in spring as the frequency of winter storms decrease and surface heat flux increases. While it has long been appreciated that seasonal phytoplankton blooms are important in shelf and slope waters of the MAB many studies have found that the maximum chlorophyll concentration appeared during fall-winter in middle and outer shelf waters and that slope waters possess a secondary spring peak in addition to the a fall-winter bloom. The fall winter bloom is the largest and most recurrent event on the shelf. Despite the importance of this biological event for the MAB ecosystem, we have very little data. This experiment will collect data at a critical time!

So what is the status of the MAB? The three nearshore gliders show a well mixed with no real stratification of the shallow waters. Despite this lack of stratification there is enhanced chlorophyll and optical backscatter in the bottom waters. The depth average currents are strong and flowing to the north. There is good agreement between all three gliders.




In contrast, RU15 is offshore and the conditions show some differences from the nearshore glider fleet. The offshore glider shows southward flowing currents. The offshore shelf waters are still stratified. The salinity shows the inner shelf contains more saline waters. The optical backscatter and chlorophyll are enhanced in the surface waters above the thermocline. The Colored Dissolved Organic Matter fluorescence show distinct differences above and below the thermocline. There are also strong nearshore and offshore gradients.






Current thinking is that the winter bloom proper should begin once the thermocline is eroded and nutrients are replenished in the surface waters. The second factor that is key is that winds should die for period of time allow the water column to stabilize. This allows the cells to overcome chronic light limitation in fully mixed water column. Therefore with a little luck we can watch in the comes days, erosion of shelf stratification, water column stabilization and the beginning of the MAB winter bloom.

OOI’s Ocean Observing Simulation Experiment begins

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

The Ocean Observing Initiative (OOI) has begun construction. For information of the OOI go to

The OOI has a large effort to build a mature cyberinfrastructure to support OOI and all ocean infrastructure. As part of that 6 effort and growing out of over a decade planning we begin. First things first, we toast with a Halloween pint, the three who got us here, John Delaney, John Orcutt, and Robert Weller. For this effort we are a small piece of the OOI, and we represent a small part of the OOI cyberinfrastructure team. We are teaming up with infrastructure being funded by the NOAA IOOS MarCOOS and the ONR ESPreSSO programs. For the next two weeks, we will be testing all the Planning and Prosecution software during an Observing System Simulation Experiment (OSSE). The OSSE software team is large but anchored by scientists/engineers from Rutgers, Scripps, Cal-IT, MIT, USGS, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

We will be testing several distinct software programs (to be highlight in several blogs to follow in the next few days) trying to coordinate real assets in the field during windy rough November weather in the angry seas on the Mid-Atlantic Bight. During this week we highlight in a series of blogs the range of technologies we will be deploying. The observation assets that we will use are satellites including AVHRR, MODIS, GOES 11+12, FY1D, OCM, TMI+AMSRE, and AASTR. These images will be complemented with a full nested CODAR array. The in situ robotic systems will consist of a fleet of Teledyne Webb Slocum gliders complemented with a fleet of propellered REMUS and Iver AUV systems. These field assets are complemented with NOAA NODC moorings. For models, we are utilizing numerical models from U Mass Dartmouth (Avijit Gangopadhyay), Stevens Institute (Alan Blumberg), University of North Carolina (outer boundary condition, Ruoying He), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Pierre Lermusiaux), Rutgers (John Wilkin), Jet Propulsion Lab (Yi Chao). These ocean models are complemented by the atmospheric NAM model. The model and observation data can be accessed through the our ocean data portal constructed by the Jet Propulsion Lab.

To follow along, go to:

A social network site will be unveiled on Monday to collate all efforts To people who use the ocean in the Mid-Atlantic, please send us your comments. Join the network at:
Note this site will be cleaned but please come join the network to give us your feedback. We need your eyes and brains. Our goal is to collect all the goods, bads, and ALL suggestions to make the infrastructure good for those use the ocean. The next blog will talk about the status of the mid-Atlantic Ocean today.

Oscar & Scott (aka Scotscar)

Antonio Earns a Gold Star

Saturday, October 31st, 2009

Sitting here at my dining room table on a Saturday morning, I look out at 2 worlds.  Out the window is the center of Hopewell, the same streets walked by Charles Lindbergh. Staring at my wireless laptop screen, the internet takes me into the COOLroom, and the COOLroom takes me out to sea.

Checking on the North Atlantic Fleet, a band of clouds stretches all the way across the middle of the basin, separating the northern stormy weather from the clear skies of the south.  Scarlet is working on our second attempt at a summer Atlantic crossing along the northern route, nearing the Spanish coast and racing the coming of winter. Meanwhile, Drake is enjoying the sunny weather of the tropics on our first attempt at a winter Atlantic crossing on the southern route.  Peering out through the clouds on the left is the fleet currently deployed in the Mid Atlantic Bight.  Lets check in on them first.


Zooming into the Middle Atlantic Bight of North America, and into the New Jersey coast, we have a Sea Surface temperature image showing us a series of eddies in the Slope Sea, interacting with the shelf water at shelf break. RU15 has reached the outer edge of the Tuckerton Endurance line and is on its way in along a well trod path. I remember back in 2003 when we ran the Endurance line for the first time for Steve Ackleson at ONR.  Yes, we were very worried we could loose the vehicle, but we also knew we had to establish the first glider Endurance line to demonstrate their value.  Now, in the robot world, the Tuckerton Endurance line is nearly as good as the safety of home. Its one of the most trafficed glider lines in the world. While RU15 is heading in, three gliders from the NSF experiment, RU05, RU21 and RU23, are flying out in formation to meet it. It is definitely the hottest collection of ocean optics ever deployed on a fleet of autonomous underwater vehicles.  One hope is to draw these gliders close for an intercomparison test over the weekend.


The NSF experiment starts on monday, and the gliders are likely to be sent out in different directions. The website to follow along is  We just submitted the Year 4 renewal for the Mid Atlantic Regional Coastal Ocean Observing System (MARCOOS) proposal on friday, so all 38 MARCOOS Partners are turning away from text editing and heading out to sea with us on this joint experiment.  Wendell Brown is coming down from the observatory lab at UMass to sit in the COOLroom next week to be the voice of IOOS on the video feed.  Typically we broadcast voice with the video only at noon to the 4H groups concentrated in the center of our country (the 6 million in the middle), but we are looking at 10 am for live broadcasts this week to fit with our usual MARCOOS conference call time. To this we add the DHS Center of Excellence for Port Security.  While NSF and IOOS focus on the environmental side, DHS will focus a security experiment in the exact same location at the exact same time.  The DHS folks need to understand what is going on in the environment to improve Maritime Domain Awareness, and the NSF/IOOS folks need to know more about the what the people are doing if we are to properly study and monitor urbanized environments.

Now back to the tropics.  The deep thermal glider Drake continues to amaze us with its ability to track a line in the open ocean.  We are resetting the web page this weekend to prepare the displays to be of better use to both us and the scientists working out of the U. Southampton (UK), U. Miami (U.S.) and Max Planck (Germany) on Rapid Climate Change.  The Southhampton program is on Meridional Overturning Circulation, or MOC. Their wesbsite is .  In this case the undergraduate students in our Atlantic Crossing class are way out in front of the professors.  The students have already contacted many of the scientists on the website and are talking about exchanges of data that will help Drake fly. Just as scientists and students in Spain and Portugal have been critical partners in our efforts to fly Scarlet across the Atlantic along the northern route, we are hoping the U.S. students make friends with the British students, combining their expertise to get Drake across along the southern route.  We find the U.S. students are diving into this without waiting for their distracted professors to catch up.


Finally,  across the Atlantic to Scarlet and Antonio's story.  In the last blog we were all amazed by the rapid change in the guidance provided by the satellite altimeter.  The geostrophic currents in the image totally changed character in the space of a day. The route east located to our south was gone, replaced by a series of eddies that drew us to a more northern route.  The new eddy is circled below in red.


Saturday mornings are a great time for me to head out to sea in the observatory.  I'm away from the office, my wife is at work, and our kids are sleeping in. Its a tradition I started with Hans Graber from U.Miami during the ONR Shallow Water 2006 Experiment.  On Saturday mornings we would both head out to sea together, Hans from his observatory in Miami and me from mine at Rutgers.  We'd meet on the NJ shelf and discuss the data we were both looking at, and what to do next with our ships, aircraft and gliders.

This morning when I logged in, I found an email from Antonio in the Canaries noting "THE LAST OBSTACLE".  The time for interaction is short during the week, essentially non-existent.  When you physically go to sea, everyone knows you will be intensely focused, and they leave you alone.  But when you go to sea virtually, they see your body is still in the room, and expectations are different.  Antonio was clearly trying to get my attention, and finally, on Saturday morning, I had the time to listen.  Antonio was heading to the beach for some surfing.  The storm we are watching in google earth was stirring up 7 foot waves in the Canaries.  But before heading down the beach, Antonio logged into his observotry, and checked on the datasets he was watching.  His data said the eddy was spinning in the exact opposite direction.  He sent me the image this morning and we put it into google earth. Antonio noted that the guidance from our usual altimeter product would lead us right into the strongest currents to the west, suggesting we go around this region to the south by staying on a straight east course.


Adjusting the transparency of Antonio's map, and overlaying it on our standard geostrophic currents, we can see the area of disagreement.  If we were on a data assimilation mission, this is the region of greatest uncertainty, since we are not even sure which direction this eddy is spinning.  It is the exact region we would point the glider.  It would have a simple mission.  Determine the sign of the spin - amazingly basic information - but one of these global datasets is wrong, and that error will have a significant impact on the forecast is the wrong choice is made for assimilation.  But Scarlet's mission now is a race with the clock, we need to beat the winter, meaning we need to avoid the regions of highest uncertainty.  We made the decision to change the waypoint to straight east.  But on this Saturday morning, all the glider pilots were watching the NSF fleet.  They where changing the depths of the excursions and keeping the fleet together.   Significant email traffic on this so I did not want to distract them from their main focus.  We would need someone else to fly Scarlet.  Tina - remember Tina? Azores rescue? - was following along over the internet in Antarctica.  She's been down there for a few weeks prepping the Antarctic glider fleet for deployment on a NSF mission.  Tina logged in from Antarctica, took control of Scarlet, and redirected her on a route to the east just as Antonio suggested.  We hope Antonio enjoys the surf.  He earned his gold star for the day.


Thinking back to Hank Stommel's 1989 fictional account of the The Slocum Mission, a futuristic look at the oceanography, I am even more convinced the future is now. For today's quote from Hank, we'll use, "There is nothing like the need to make decisions to lay bare areas of ignorance that are papered over in textbooks".  Today we found a sign error in one of the world's textbooks, and we are not even sure which one is right.

Next week we take another step forward in the tranformation with the start of the NSF OSSE on the Mid Atlantic continental shelf.  I wonder what we'll discover on monday.

An Anniversary is Noted

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

On October 29, 1992, Mike Crowley powered up Rutgers' new SeaSpace Satellite Data Acquisition System and tracked an overpass of one of the NOAA sea surface temperature sensing satellites.  It was our first use of the Coastal Ocean Observation Lab's control center, what has come to be known as the COOLroom. Today Mike reminded me it was not much of a room back then.  It still had no ceiling, some internal walls where still missing, and we had to wear hard hats to work on the computer. But on this day 17 years ago, the Coastal Ocean Observation Lab began sensing the ocean off the U.S. East Coast and has never stopped since.

Checking in on the Atlantic fleet, a band of clouds stretches straight across the Atlantic from the U.S. nearly to Spain. We'll need to check how this weather is affecting currents on the European side later on friday.  I keep seeing emails from Antonio specifically on the currents, so I know he is keeping a watchful eye on us.  Its good we have a distributed team.


First closer to home, RU15 is about to hit its final offshore waypoint.  Its on a dual use mission.  It has the hottest optics package we ever deployed for the ONR mission, and its following the route to collect temperature data for the NOAA IOOS and NOAA Fisheries missions. It should hit its waypoint at the end of the Tuckerton Endurance line today, then head in for recovery.  On Friday we also deploy 3 gliders for the NSF OOI.  Glider party in the Mid-Atlantic.


Moving south to Teledyne Webb's thermal glider Drake, we have hit the target latitude of 26.5 N and are heading east.  We are running Drake along this line to determine how gliders can best contribute to the programs to monitor the north-south exchange of heat in the North Atlantic.  The circulation is called the Meridional Overturning Circulation, abbreviated as MOC.  The rapid climate change scenarios are often related to changes in the MOC.  Drake is holding the line quite well so far.  For those of us that grew up in the shallow glider world, it is truly amazing to see how well a deep glider can hold a line in the open ocean.


On to the glamour shot for Scarlet.  At 8 pm on Oct 29, Scarlet surfaced and reported she had flown a total path length of 6,900.43 km.  We'll round down to 6900.


Zooming into Scarlet's present location, the altimetry map below shows the path planning shocker from the noon surfacing.  The geostrophic currents on the map have totally changed in character. The jet to the southeast is gone, and the eastward currents we hoped to ride along 42 N are down to zero.  Instead of the stronger currents being to our south, the stronger currents are now to our north.  Luckily, Scarlet was on an eastward heading, so the distance to either route is the same.  With this new information, we turned Scarlet northeast into the region with larger currents. According to this sea-map, the currents should be first to the northeast, and then to the southeast.


The satelite Sea Surface Temperature map below is in general agreement with the altimetery.  Where the currents are northeast, we see warmer water heading north.  Where the currents are southeast, we see colder water heading south.


Lastly the recovery planning plot.  Our first task is to get into Spanish waters by crossing the 200 nautical mile limit (thin yellow arcs) that marks the outer edge of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). As of 8 pm tonight, Scarlet is 269 km from the outer edge of the Spanish EEZ.  Once we cross this line, our job is to position ourselves in Spanish waters at a location that is most favorable for recovery.


Meet Bruiser!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

BruiserYesterday (Tuesday) was our first sampling day here at station. We would have gone Monday but if the wind is blowing over 20 knots they don't want us out on the water. Which is fine by us, no one wants to feed the fishy! So since the winds had laid down it was time to head out on our trusty zodiac 'Bruiser'. As you can see Bruiser is kind of a beast! The good news is that since it's such a heavy boat it would take an Orca to flip it, so hopefully I will have better luck here than I did in the Azores! Anyway back to the science, we have two main goals while sampling, first is the lowering of our bio-optics cage and second is collecting seawater samples. Yesterday we lowered our optics cage to 60m and collected water in Niskin bottles at 50, 25 and 10m and then two surface samples. Once we have what we need it's time to head back to the lab and filter the samples. As you can see we have a lovely filtration system setup. Filtration SystemWe use 25mm filters and filter the seawater in incriminates of 100ml until we see pigment on the filters. Right now since the water is so clear there is not a lot of activity so we have to filter more water. This will change as the weather warms and the water livens up as we head deeper into the Antarctic summer. We follow this process twice, once for chlorophyll samples and a second time for HPLC samples. Once we have the filters we store them in either the deep freeze or in liquid nitrogen. And that's a wrap!

CODAR update: PLOCAN Data

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009


This week the CODAR group attempted to plot the data that we have acquired from PLOCAN in the Canary Islands. Unfortunately, things did no go as planned.

plocanAs you can see, the data has large gaps and follows no specific pattern. It is most likely a small error in the MATLAB code that is causing all of the data to plot incorrectly. Every minute of work is one step closer to achieving our goal. This week is going to be dedicated to debugging all of our plotting tools, including our CODAR scripts.

Another note, surface currents off the coast of Spain seem to be predominately North switching to East at various points throughout the day. The good thing is that surface current velocities in the area that we want RU27 to  complete its mission are well below 50 cm/s, mostly around 30cm/s, for the most of the day. This is very promising for our mission.


Mike and Lisa

Focusing on the Thermocline

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Hey everyone,

Over the past couple of days, the most noticeable change in the water column has been the thermocline position and strength.  On October 24th, the temperature change within the 35-80 meter displacement was very gradual.  There was no large change in decreasing water temperature within a small distance, as we have seen in the past.  However, this trend tends to fluctuate and it is difficult to predict how the thermocline will appear in the next couple of days; the plots shown below are the most recent example.  The CTD data from October 26th shows a large decrease in water temperature within barely 20 meters.


water column temp.-oct-26

As of this past week, bottom water temperatures have been hovering just above 13.5 degrees C. and there has been little change.  In addition, battery life is not too much of a concern relative to time because we have just below 50% left and bottom water temperatures do not seem to pose any threat either.  The main issue is dealing with the bio-fouling and slowing down barnacle growth. Staying below the thermocline, as well as the pycnocline, helps with limiting biology growth because we would be avoiding most of the nutrients.  Since the thermocline is constantly changing, our group will continuously keep track of the thermocline positions, as well as strength.  Also, we are continuing to look for some sort of archive of past underwater data for Spanish waters but the search continues.  RU27 is approaching the finish line and each group is working hard to get her to cross it.

-Colin and Abe

Weather Group Week of 10/27/09

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Hello all.

This week we focused on finding more detailed data in the archives for the last week in November. As per usual we also included the current weather conditions of the region as well as a current look at the Jet Stream.

As of Monday this is where the Jet Stream was located.

Current European Jet Stream

The current weather model is shown here:Current Weather Pattern

Current Satellite Image:

Current Satellite Image

Current Regional Cloud Cover:

Current Cloud Cover

Archived Weather data for the last week in November 2008:

Vigo: Rain and Fog. Visibility was poor. The temperature ranged from  3-6 deg C

Lisbon: Some Rain. Decent Visibility most days. Temperature ranged from 8-12 deg C

Archived Weather Data for the last week in November 2007:

Vigo: No rain but heavy fog. Poor Visibility. Temperature ranged from 1-10 deg C

Lisbon: Clear with excellent visibility the whole week. Temperature ranged from 10-17 deg C

Thats all for now!

Justin and Nilsen

Slow Gliders, Fast Cars, and Global Maps

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Katie here with a continuation of our historic crossing information.

This week we began creating a final set of Kml files for our historic crossings. There will be three files with three different categories: Ships, People, and Other.

In addition we began creating a chart of the speeds of different objects compared to the gliders.
So far our chart looks like:

Object Speed
Ship 1183.22
Sailboat 257.2
Human Walking 134.1
Human Running 1250
Slow Car Speed 670.57
Fast Car Speed 2011.68

All objects are measured in centemerts per second.
As you can see the gliders are very slow compared to the other objects. Even slower then an average walk. To compare to a person a glider moves about the same pace as a slow walk. Which means that with large waves or currents the glider gets tossed around.

We wish scarlet good luck with her last leg and hope she gets there safely!

(Erin, Dan)

A glimmer of success in a week of frustration.

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Google's 3-D modeling program called "SketchUp" is indeed showing great potential glider flight profile introduction into Google Earth. The concept of the program is relatively simple: make simple to complex 3-dimensional products and be able to impose images, via a number of ways, onto the external surfaces of the object. This can allow for the production of recognizable 3-D objects, such as buildings, to be introduced into Google Earth. While the concept is simple, the actual act is proving to be quite difficult. First of all, the simplicity of the exporting-from-SketchUp/importing-to-Google Earth is made to be terrestrial (on land, above sea level). We want to have our models in the ocean, sub-sea level. Secondly, we are attempting to use the 3-d modeling program to create a 2-d model, or for all practical purposes an image, to change the direction plane on which the image lies in comparison to an image overlay into Google Earth. These two factors are difficult ones to work with...but progress is slowly but surely being made.

Below is an image of one of RU27's latest flight profile plots in Google SketchUp being prepared for export to Google Earth. As you can see, a flat 2-d object is being created in a 3-d modeling program. The black is actually transparent; once in Google Earth, the only part visible will be the flight path, and anything else we choose to enter. There will be no rectangle enclosing the flight profile.


Aside from figuring out how to actually get SketchUp and Google Earth to cooperate, we also have a checklist of other things needed to be done for this project. Since there are such a large number of segments for RU27 which will need to be reworked, customized, and documented into this project, some type of autoscript to make the process move faster will need to be created to prepare the segments for a more readily understandable/readable format. We will also begin to extract important moments along RU27's active sub-surface flight that will need to be marked along the upcoming underwater flight path for Google Earth. These landmark moments will be incorporated into the overall completed .kmz file.

Also upcoming will be a tiled example of the data types which we have used for piloting as a downloadable example for Google Earth as a type of introductory "lesson" for newcomers following a glider's flight. The file will include explanations of the different types of data and will explain how to read and understand them in an effort to bring all of our online followers aboard with us.

-Dave, Chris, & Jason