Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New buoy designed to gather information in changing Arctic

University of Washington News: A new buoy designed to collect information both in ice floes and open ocean is being air dropped today (Oct. 12, 2010) into the Arctic Ocean by a U.S. Coast Guard C-130. The Airborne eXpandable Ice Beacon, or AXIB, passed stringent air-drop certification by the Coast Guard earlier this year and this is its first air drop as a fully operational research tool.

"The buoys can provide crucial data for weather and ice forecasting used for tracking the direction and intensity of storms, some of which affect Alaska," says Roger Anderson, a senior mathematician with the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory who is overseeing the airdrop. "The data also will be used by scientists in climate models and to try to understand the changes occurring in the Arctic and around the globe."

The state of the Arctic is of concern because Arctic sea ice has retreated extensively in the summer for the past decade, with the last four summers setting records for how little ice cover remained at the end of the melt season, according to Ignatius Rigor, senior research scientist at the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory. With these retreats, warmer ocean and air temperatures have been recorded, especially north of Alaska.

… The new Airborne eXpendable Ice Beacon buoys were developed as a partnership between the Polar Science Center at the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory, U.S. Coast Guard and National Ice Center. Prototypes deployed in the last two years led to the manufacture of this new buoy. It measures such things as air pressure and temperature, winds, upper ocean temperature, ice and snow temperatures and movement of the ice. Each buoy costs about $18,000.

The buoys will be part of the International Arctic Buoy Program currently collecting and sharing data from more than 100 buoys deployed by 30 institutions from 10 individual countries and the European Union. The program, which originated at the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory in 1979, is currently coordinated by Rigor.

From the University of Washington website: A prototype of the Airborne eXpendable Ice Buoy is deployed from the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy. Its first air drop as a fully operation research tool was October 12.

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