Ocean robots survey the ocean's particles

The COMICS expedition is all about understanding how material sinking from the ocean surface contributes to carbon storage in the ocean.  You might think that means we have to actually catch the sinking material to study it.  We do that too, but we can also get information about the particles in the water using ocean robots.  Filipa and I have the job of looking after ocean gliders - autonomous underwater vehicles that can survey the ocean for months at a time without needing a ship.

A glider being deployed to gather data.Gliders move slowly through the water almost silently and glide gently down to 1000 metres depth and back up again over a few hours, collecting data all the way.  The gliders we've deployed will give us data on how the amount of particles in the water changes from day to day over a period of months, so we can figure out how deep the carbon originating in the surface gets into the ocean.  This has a strong control on our climate, as the deeper the carbon gets into the ocean the longer it can be stored away out of contact with the atmosphere, which helps maintain carbon dioxide levels in the air much lower than they would otherwise be.

The glider programme on this expedition is funded by a European Research Council grant called GOCART


Stephanie Henson

Principal Investigator

18 November 2017