The ocean we are trying to better understand is always moving and changing, varying across great distances and depths as well as the passing days and seasons. It’s impossible for us to be everywhere all the time but with the help of special programmable gliders TTIDE scientists are learning more.
Gliders are a relatively new type of instrument platform, essentially ocean floats with wings and a robot brain, and they fill important gaps in our TTIDE shipboard and mooring observations. This is a very capable ocean science platform, some versions of which have been developed in house at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, that can turn and change both their horizontal and vertical position within the water column. Gliders can literally fly through the sea and be programmed to record data like ocean temperature, salinity, velocity, and sometimes other more biologically important quantities such as oxygen levels and chlorophyll.
Another virtue of the glider platform over fixed moorings is that they regularly return to the surface and communicate back to base at Scripps. This allows very recent ocean measurements to be seen by an operator who then has the option to reprogram the glider and adapt to changing priorities. Oceanographers call this “adaptive sampling”.
We have so far successfully recovered two of these wandering ocean robots and their data will help provide a baseline for TTIDE scientists to better understand the complex dynamics of the internal wave pulses that cross this stretch of the Tasman Sea.
– Thomas Moore, for the TTIDE team