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Menopausal Mother Nature

News about Climate Change and our Planet


Boaty McBoatface Is Now Studying Global Warming – Popular Mechanics

boaty mcboatface

Povl Abrahamsen, British Antarctic Survey

A few years ago, the British Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) went unexpectedly viral when the Internet took over a voting campaign to name a new research vessel. Left open for suggestions, the poll became flooded with joke responses, like It’s Bloody Cold Here and, most, notably, Boaty McBoatface.

Eventually, NERC chose a different name, but kept Boaty onboard as an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). Now the little AUV has created a 3D map of deep ocean waters to better understand global warming in the waters near Antarctica.

In 2017, Boaty was onboard the RRS James Clark Ross, a British Antarctic Survey vessel. The Ross has a suite of scientific tools at its disposal, including underwater cameras that can view depths as far down as 3,280 feet (1,000 meters). Boaty and AUVs like it can travel even further, down to around 19,685 feet (6,000 meters).

Using an echo sounder to guide its way through the depths, Boaty went down around 13,123 feet (4,000 meters) on this particular mission. Traveling 111 miles (180 km) away from its home ship, Boaty navigated through the mountainous undersea terrain while measuring temperature, saltiness, and turbulence of the water at the very bottom of the ocean floor. Then the AUV reunited with the Ross, and scientists began analyzing its data.

Boaty’s data showed that global warming above even affects the environments at the most remote parts of the world. Thanks to the hole in the ozone layer and the way people have increased greenhouse gasses on the planet, stronger winds are blowing over the Southern Ocean. Those winds are able to create turbulence in the ocean, sending warmer water at mid-level depths to mix with cold, dense water in the dark abyss 13,000 feet below.

That warming water at the ocean’s surface “is a significant contributor to rising sea levels,” according to a press statement from the University of Southampton, which had scientists aboard the Ross.

“Our study is an important step in understanding how the climate change happening in the remote and inhospitable Antarctic waters will impact the warming of the oceans as a whole and future sea level rise,” Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato from Southampton, who led the study, said in the statement.

boaty mcboatface arctic ocean
Boaty McBoatface on the job.

Povl Abrahamsen, British Antarctic Survey

Boaty’s scientific data was crucial to the project. “The data from Boaty McBoatface gave us a completely new way of looking at the deep ocean—the path taken by Boaty created a spatial view of the turbulence near the seafloor,” said Dr. Eleanor Frajka-Williams of the National Oceanography Centre (NOC).

Next up for the AUV that captured the Internet’s heart? An outfit change. The submersible will be outfitted with “acoustic and chemical sensors and sent into the North Sea to ‘sniff-out’ signals associated with the artificial release of gas beneath the seabed,” according to its NOC website.

And after that, there’s the big long-term goal: becoming the first AUV to cross the entire Arctic Ocean under ice. It’s a tall task and would be a huge technical achievement, but Boaty McBoatface has beaten long odds before.

Source: Southampton


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