Yesterday was one of those days a teacher never forgets. Shannon and Dakota walked into my office in the afternoon just before heading off to class. They said they were looking at the data, and they found a better way to the Azores, and they wanted to fly it there themselves. They were freshman when this flight started. Now they are sophomores, part of the experienced crew. They had been learning more about the flight characteristics of RU17 this past week, and they noticed its speed had suddenly increased - after all, it is the full moon. They also were looking at the satellite altimetry-derived current product, with its local uncertianties but generally correct features. They drew the white line on the image. They figured they could use the new found speed to shoot the gap between two cold eddies, hugging the eddy to the northeast for a push to the east, but staying as far south as they could to catch the next set of warm eddies between 32-34 W. They would shoot the warm eddy gap, this time hugging the warm eddy to the south for an eastward push. Instead of approaching Flores from the north, the long term plan, they would approach Flores from the south. The plan would cut weeks off the trip. This was important for the students. They want to go the Azores for the pick up and turn around, so they have to get it there before finals. Saving time was critical.
We all loved the plan. Shannon and Dakota said they would take over driving and watching, just like Justin, Anthony and Eric did this past summer. They were seniors and juniors. Shannon and Dakato are going to show us what the sophomores can do.
The time series below shows the currents have decreased, but they are remaining to the east. It looks like they are going into a region with lower currents, and a hugging the northern ring as intended.
Recent sea surface temperature maps are mostly cloudy, so we forced to go to a 7 day conposite. But when we do and we trace that same white line, we are staying in the warm water (red) south of the front. Thats good for a few reasons. Most of the currents on the cold side of the front (green colors) are flowing to the west. The warmer water also extends battery life.
Battery life is something we always think about, but something that becomes even more important as winter comes. We are a few days away from 5 months at sea. We have flown over 5,500 km. We have less than 550 km to go to get to Flores. 9/10 of the way there.