Scientists to Use Cruise Ships for Research

Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Hoping to collect decades of data, ocean scientist are enlisting cargo and cruise ships to measure water temperatures, ocean currents and even the height of clouds as the vessels ply their regular routes. To begin to address questions of large ocean patterns, such as the changing path of the Gulf Stream, scientists need more than the few years of data most scientific missions can provide, Malaysia Star reported. The long-term data that commercial ships can furnish is what has been historically so difficult to obtain. The volunteer programs are also cheaper, considering the cost of renting a dedicated research vessel for a single day could exceed $15,000. Scientists use marine and atmospheric emitted radiance interferometer to measure temperatures on the ocean's surface and the ceilometer to measure the altitude of clouds. The devices are attached to the decks and roofs of ships. With instruments affixed this year to the Norrona, a ferry that makes a roundtrip every week stopping in Denmark, Scotland and Iceland, scientists hope to learn more about the cold waters emptying out of the Arctic seas into the northern Atlantic Ocean. Scientists also have been using instruments attached to the cargo ship Oleander since 1992 to monitor the Gulf Stream as the vessel passes between Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, and Bermuda. And another ship, Nuka Arctic, has been helping since 1999 to give scientists a look at the Gulf Stream along its path between Denmark and Greenland. With such information regularly collected over a long period of time, researchers hope not just to observe a particular change but to gain an understanding of how the ocean behaves over time. The ships function similar to satellites, which probe through the atmosphere, down to the surface of the ocean. Commercial ships have a far larger presence on the ocean than either research or military vessels, and scientists are working to develop partnerships with them to make their research more cost efficient. (Source: Malaysia Star)
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