Dr. Sophia Merrifield
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
OA Section Research Candidate Interview Seminar
Abstract. Unmanned sensing technologies are rapidly emerging in support of national security, climate and ecosystem monitoring, and civil needs for extreme-event forecasting. The maturation of a diverse set of platforms provides opportunities to collect oceanographic observations persistently in under-sampled environments, at low-cost relative to ship surveys.
This talk describes engineering development and scientific results from a recent 2-month study of the upper ocean response to extreme surface forcing in the Icelandic Basin. Two unmanned vehicles, a Boeing Liquid Robotics Wave Glider (surface) and a Teledyne-Webb Slocum Glider (underwater), were deployed with advanced sensing packages to measure meteorological forcing, directional surface waves, upper ocean currents, stratification, and turbulence. The basin-scale wave climate was characterized using an array of drifting directional wave buoys which captured fast moving storms and extreme wind and wave states. Scientific objectives relied on collocated observations from the two vehicles with distinctive performance characteristics; a shoreside autonomy framework was developed to minimize separation distance between the platforms using real-time and forecast environmental information. Observations collected by this network of autonomous vehicles, aided by environmentally-aware path-planning routines, provide new insight into the impact of storms on boundary-layer processes and are considered in the context of parameterizations used in operational ocean models. Future applications of this framework to cross-disciplinary ocean science problems will be presented.