July 14, 2011

Pirates Forcing Climate Scientists To Use Navy For Climate Research

Climate scientists are using the U.S. and Australian navies to deploy robotic measuring devices in the pirate-infested Indian Ocean.

About a quarter of the Indian Ocean is off limits to climate scientists due to pirates making the waters too dangerous for research.

"We have not been able to seed about one quarter of the Indian Ocean since the increase in the piracy and that has implications for understanding a region of influence in Australian and south Asian weather and climate," CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship scientist, Dr Ann Thresher, said in a statement.

Thresher said the northwest Indian Ocean played a crucial role in weather patterns in Australia and South Asia.

The data obtained from the Indian Ocean helped researchers predict long range forecasts.  She said it was crucial to fill the gap.

"With the region north of Mauritius being a no-go area for most vessels due to pirate activity, we have approached the US and Australian navies to assist us in deployments of around 20 profilers, including 10 provided by the United Kingdom Argo project," Thresher said in a statement.

"This level of international and military cooperation is tremendously important to us in building a sustainable operating ocean-borne system that is providing the data at the core of current weather and climate observations and prediction."

The robotic measuring devices are about six feet long and drift between the ocean surface to a depth of about 6,500 feet.

About 3,000 of the Argos devices have been deployed and about 30 countries contribute to the multi-million dollar program that deploys the $19,000 floats.

The devices measure salinity and temperature and the network monitors how the world's oceans are responding to warming temperatures.

The program relies on commercial shipping and chartered vessels to deploy Argos globally but the threat from Somali pirates meant navies were the only option.


Image Caption: Deploying an Argo robotic ocean profiler. Credit: CSIRO


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