Science and Technology News

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Navy Leads International Effort to Deploy Buoys Into the Arctic Ocean

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13, 2017 — The U.S. National Ice Center, in coordination with the Office of Naval Research, Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy, the Danish Joint Arctic Command, Environmental and Climate Change Canada and the University of Washington, deployed buoys into the Arctic Ocean during a joint mission Sept. 7.

An Air-Deployable Expendable Ice Buoy is deployed in the high Arctic near the North Pole from a Royal Danish Air Force C-130 aircraft

The joint mission was conducted to collect weather and oceanographic data to enhance forecasting and environmental models thereby reducing operational risk for assets in the Arctic.

"Polar lows are like hurricanes of the north and the data collected from these buoys will help us with numerical weather prediction, which will help to keep our and our partner forces safe," said Navy Cmdr. Ruth Lane, commanding officer, U.S. National Ice Center.

For example, Lane said, when Hurricane Irma was approaching the Caribbean Islands and came within the range of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Hurricane Hunter aircraft, they flew out and dropped buoys through the hurricane.

Valuable Information

The information provided by NOAA’s buoys improved the tracking and intensity models for Irma, she said, adding that forecast accuracy improves tremendously from the surge of local observations.

“Our goal with these Arctic buoys is a similar return on investment," Lane said.

She said the ice-hardened buoys, known as Air Expendable Ice Beacons, were deployed from a Royal Danish Airforce C-130 aircraft deploying out of Thule Air Base in Greenland.

"Pilots supporting the Danish Joint Arctic Command were conducting training flights in the high Arctic, so we were able to leverage these flights to deploy the buoys for the first time out of a Danish aircraft and only the second time over the North Pole," said Navy Lt. Emily Motz, who’s with the U.S. National Ice Center and is the coordinator for the Arctic Buoy Program.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. John Woods, from the Office of Naval Research, reserve component, and Ignatius Rigor from the University of Washington prepare an Air-Deployable Expendable Ice Buoy for deployment in the high Arctic Ocean near the North Pole.

"The buoys will provide data for 3 to 5 years,” Motz said, “providing operational and scientific community access to the in situ [in place] observations available to all forecasters and researchers through the International Arctic Buoy Program."

USNIC, in partnership with University of Washington, is responsible for management and coordination of the U.S. Interagency Arctic Buoy Program and represents other U.S agencies including International Arctic Research Center, NASA, the National Science Foundation, Naval Oceanographic Office and Office of Naval Research.

Global Participation

The IABP is a conglomeration of global participants that maintain a network of drifting buoys in the Arctic Ocean. The buoy effort also provides important data to the Office of Naval Research Seasonal Ice Zone Reconnaissance Surveys program, which is the core of their Arctic and Global Prediction Program.

"Unique opportunities like this are a result of relationships built under the International Cooperative Engagement Program for Polar Research," said Ninette Sadusky, senior science policy advisor for the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy.

"ICE-PPR is a multinational effort led by the Office of the Senior National Representative within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations,” Sadusky said. “It's important that we continue to foster partnerships and ongoing missions like the buoy program continue to thrive."

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