Australia to release South Ocean robot probe
It will be the largest investment yet by Australian scientists in monitoring the engine room of global climate, the Southern Ocean's Antarctic circumpolar current, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) said in a statement.
"We can for the first time observe what is happening beneath the surface of the Southern Ocean on a routine basis," said oceanographer Steve Rintoul, programme leader of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) programme. The waters between Australia and Antarctica are notorious for the strongest winds and largest waves on Earth, he said.
The floats will be deployed in a region that ships "tend to avoid," allowing scientists to observe "changes in the Southern Ocean affecting climate and marine life," he said.
Rintoul told the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans conference the floats would be deployed to the edge of the Antarctic sea ice, starting in late 2003. The Australian effort joins programmes by the United States, Japan and some European nations to monitor circumpolar current and measure future climate change.
The robot floats, costing A$30,000 ($18,000) each, drift with currents to sample the ocean to a depth of two kilometres (1.25 miles) every 10 days. Temperature and salinity profiles measured by the floats are relayed to land via satellite.
Partners in Australia's CRC include the Australian Antarctic Division, University of Tasmania, CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.