¨Clockwork Ocean¨ has been launched. This project involves scientists, radar equipment, high-tech instruments and robots, as well as an airship (Zeppelin) which is observing the Baltic sea. Sound thrilling? Read on for a story about a very unique expedition.
Early in June, the Federal Minister for Education and Research, Johanna Wanka, opened the 2016-17 science year “Seas and Oceans” and researchers from the Helmholtz Association took this as the cue to start their expedition.
It is the first time that a Zeppelin is being used for coastal and marine research anywhere in the world. A team of researchers are employing it to investigate eddies in the Baltic Sea from above in an area between Usedom and Bornholm.
Like clockwork gears, small eddies are interlocked with each other and are almost entirely unexplored. They are suspected of having a major influence on the ocean’s food chain, algae blooms and the climate.
The view of our blue planet is shaped by satellite images. The images depict the complex dynamics of a yet fully understood habitat. The global ocean currents transport enormous water masses through rhythms of winds and tides, influencing global climate and the ocean’s biology. Like clockwork gears, massive eddies are closely interlocked with ocean currents.
Mostly hidden from satellite view however, countless small eddies also turn near the water’s surface. They usually range from approximately one hundred meters to ten kilometres in size and often only exist from a period of a few hours to up to one day.
–Prof. Burkard Baschek, coastal researcher and oceanographer at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht
The 75m long Zeppelin, equipped with special-purpose cameras, took off a few days ago and is able to hover precisely above the eddies, a feat that is impossible using traditional research aircraft. Cameras can detect even the tiniest differences in temperature on the ocean’s surface and can capture the sea-water’s colour-range. This is essential for the study of how micro-algae react to the turbulence of cold and warm water. This technique is around one million times more precise than an investigation using satellites. The expedition is currently ongoing.
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Source: Pressemitteilung: 068/2016 des Bundesministeriums fuer Bildung und Forschung “Ein Zeppelin für die Meere” and http://www.uhrwerk-ozean.de/expedition/index.html.en