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ATOMIC mission week 1 recap: Deployments, deployments, deployments
Katie Valentine

ATOMIC mission week 1 recap: Deployments, deployments, deployments

Air & Sea Chronicles

Editor's note: Air & Sea Chronicles is NOAA's blog series documenting the ATOMIC mission in Barbados. This is the second post from Janet Intrieri, a research scientist from NOAA's Earth System Research Lab Physical Sciences Division, who gives us a recap of the busy first week of the mission aboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown.

NTAS Deployment

NTAS Deployment

Deployment of the NTAS in the tropical Atlantic Ocean. It will stay there for one year, thanks to a 7,000-lb weight at the seafloor, which is 3 miles deep. (Photo: Richard Marchbanks).

We’ve almost completed a week at sea and so much has happened! It’s all in a day’s (and night’s, and weekends’) work. Here’s a sampler of some of the activities this past week: 

— The Northwest Tropical Atlantic Station (NTAS) buoy was deployed! This major task (the buoy is about 15 feet tall and 10 feet across) involved the entire deck crew, scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the rest of us spectating. We’ll post a blog devoted to this later (as well as video of the entire six-hour operation using a stop-motion film camera from an upper deck). But as some quick background, the NTAS buoy is a climate and weather research buoy that was deployed east of Barbados, and will collect ocean and atmospheric data to help us understand how the air and sea interact.  

— Two Wave Gliders were deployed by the collaborative team from Applied Physics Lab - University of Washington and NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory’s Physical Sciences Division. These instrumented surfboards are being “steered” via a satellite connection by team members in Seattle. The Wave Gliders gather measurements of the atmosphere (wind, humidity, temperature, pressure) and ocean (surface waves, temperature, salinity, fluorescence, and currents). 

— The SWIFT drifters are getting ready to go too. These instrumented buoys get lowered into the ocean and free-drift to provide the same information on the ocean and atmosphere as the Wave Gliders, plus a measure of turbulence (mixing) in the ocean. We’ll pick the drifters up in a couple of weeks and reset them during the next leg. 

SWIFT Buoy

SWIFT Buoy

A SWIFT buoy for measuring ocean + atmosphere + waves, developed and made at the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington. (Photo: Simon de Szoeke).

— The meteorological tower was climbed at sea since we forgot to take a cap off the temperature sensor off while we were at dock...details! This tower, located at the ship’s bow, precisely measures pressure, temperature, humidity, winds, waves, precipitation, and solar and infrared radiation to understand the exchanges of energy, water, and momentum between the atmosphere and the ocean.

And of course there was much, much more that went on this week — balloons launched every four hours around the clock, CTD Rosettes that went down to 5,000 meters (that’s around 16,250 feet or ~3 miles below the ocean surface!), and plenty of work that isn’t as eye-catching (like people working long hours on their computers). 

Stay tuned for more updates from the ATOMIC mission!

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