July 20, 2017

In mid-July, NOAA scientists will send off the first sail drones from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, with two sailing north through the Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean and another transiting the Bering Sea. Traversing Alaska’s inhospitable waters, the remotely-operated vehicles will track melting ice, measure the ocean’s levels of carbon dioxide, and count fish, seals, and whales to better understand their behavior and population.
For the first time, the vehicles will journey through the Bering Strait into the Arctic with a newly adapted system to measure CO2 concentrations. “We want to understand how changes in the Arctic may affect large-scale climate and weather systems as well as ecosystems that support valuable fish stocks,” says Jessica Cross, an oceanographer at NOAA Research’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), who is using the unmanned system to study how the Arctic Ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide.
A third unmanned vehicle will survey more than 3,100 nautical miles in the Bering Sea for walleye pollock, Northern fur seals that prey on them and the elusive North Pacific right whale.
In September, scientists will launch two more unmanned systems from Alameda, California, on a six-month, 8,000 nautical mile round trip mission to the equator and back to improve the Tropical Pacific Observing System (TPOS). TPOS provides real-time data used by the US and partner nations to forecast weather and climate, including El Nino. (Source: NOAA)