Underwater gliders could help predict superstorms

    2013/11/01

NSFW    The Coastal Ocean Observation Lab (COOL) at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey is deploying a fleet of buoyancy-driven underwater gliders that are able to gather real-time data on what’s happening in the ocean, even during a storm. The technology is aimed at helping researchers figure out the differences between relatively weak hurricanes and superstorms.

The gliders are each 6-feet-long, weigh 115 pounds and travels at roughly 10-20 km per day. They carry instruments to help measure the water’s temperature, depth and salinity, and can beam the information back to laboratories via satellite phone every time the device surfaces.

Underwater gliders, which can submerge to hundreds of feet below the surface o fthe ocean, are battery-powered and can operate for months at a time. They are driven by changes in buoyancy, and are equipped with wings that replicate the mechanics of flight underwater, rather than propelling forward like a submarine. In order to dive down, a piston inside the nose of the device pulls back, allowing water into the vessel, which increases the weight in front, thus angeling the glider toward the ocean floor. When the piston pushes water back out, the glider becomes more buoyant and swoops up toward the surface.

Researchers hope the underwater gliders, combined with traditional data sampling methods, will help them form a better idea of ocean conditions before, during and after a storm. This will also allow experts to forecast devastating hurricanes before they hit.
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