Antonio Earns a Gold Star

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.

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