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Who Goes to Sea Wishing for Bad Weather?

January 1, 2006

Some physical oceanographers do, even if it is in January in the North Atlantic. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists will spend two weeks this month working south of the Gulf Stream in the Northwest Atlantic trying to understand the transfer of energy from deep water to surface waters, and the effect on climate. It is all part of CLIMODE, for CLIvar MOde water Dynamics Experiment. Desired conditions are those in which outbreaks of cold Arctic air rapidly cool the waters of the Gulf Stream, resulting in huge amounts of evaporation and heat loss to the atmosphere. Researchers will deploy a variety of instruments, including autonomous gliders and fixed moorings with surface buoys equipped with meteorological instruments as well as sensors extending from the surface buoy to the seafloor miles below to record temperature, current speed and direction, pressure and other ocean conditions. Aboard the research vessel Atlantis, investigators will test new types of instrumentation and obtain  preliminary data needed to plan for six weeks of winter cruise time in the same region in 2007. The research program involves more than 17 principal investigators from nine institutions in the U.S. and is funded by the National Science Foundation.