Ocean Observatories Initiative To Conduct At Sea Mooring Tests on East Coast

An instrumented buoy representative of what will be used this month for Ocean Observatories Initiative at-sea tests off the New England Coast. (Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

(Click to enlarge) An instrumented buoy representative of what will be used this month for Ocean Observatories Initiative at-sea tests off the New England Coast. (Credit: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

The Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) program this month will conduct at-sea tests of moorings off the New England Coast, marking the first comprehensive test of an OOI system on the East Coast.

Two of the test moorings are for the Pioneer Array component of the OOI and another test mooring is designed to be used in the deep ocean global array part of the program.

The OOI team conducting the tests will depart on the Research Vessel Oceanus on Sept. 22 to deploy three test moorings at two sites on the continental slope south of Cape Cod. That shelf break is at 39o 55.0’ N, 70o 47.5’ W. At that location, two moorings — a surface mooring and a moored profiler — will be placed at approximately 1710 feet (520 meters) water depth. A third mooring will be placed at a deep ocean location at 39o 30.0’ N, 70o 47.5’ W. That mooring will be placed at 8136 feet (2480 m).

Though based on decades of experience, the OOI mooring designs are new and testing will allow the program to validate the designs of this important component of the program. Over the duration of its deployment Pioneer Array moorings are planned to be in place for approximately six months at a time before being replaced by refurbished moorings. The Pioneer Array test will include special instrumentation to allow examination of mooring performance during the deployment interval.

Under the test plan, the moorings will be in place for approximately seven months with a planned recovery in April 2012.  After recovery, the OOI team will combine telemetered and recorded engineering data with observation and testing of mooring materials to evaluate performance. If necessary, the design will be fine-tuned prior to the Pioneer Array deployments.

A prototype of the surface mooring was deployed east of New Jersey in 2010. Earlier this summer components of the Endurance Array were tested off the Oregon Coast. In addition, the OOI program this summer installed the Undersea Cable off the Oregon and Washington coasts that will link scientists and others on land to data streaming from an extensive array of next-generation sensors located in the ocean and on the seafloor.

The Pioneer Array will have two lines of stand-alone moorings running north-south across the continental shelf break. Moorings would provide locally generated power to seafloor and platform instruments and sensors and use satellite and other wireless technologies to link shore and the Internet. The western, or downstream, line will consist of surface moorings, wire-following profiler moorings with a smaller surface expression (i.e., smaller surface buoy), and surface-piercing profiler moorings with an intermittent surface expression. The eastern, or upstream line, will consist of wire-following profiler moorings with small surface expressions. Gliders and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) would run missions in the vicinity of the moored array. The information gleaned from the Pioneer Array will include sea temperature, winds, wave height and currents. The Pioneer Array will contain: 10 moorings distributed among seven sites; three AUVs and six gliders.

“The Pioneer Array gives us the unique ability to obtain continuous measurements, over a range of spatial scales, from moorings, gliders, and AUVs, each observing a variety of ocean processes over the shelf and across the shelf break,” said Tim Cowles, Vice President & Director of Ocean Observing at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. “This approach to obtaining continuous ocean measurements will lead to new insights and better answers to our science questions, while also revealing new questions to be addressed.  It is tremendously exciting to know that we will be observing the ocean in ways that weren’t possible with traditional research methods.”

The OOI, a project funded by the National Science Foundation, is planned as a networked infrastructure of science-driven sensor systems to measure the physical, chemical, geological and biological variables in the ocean and seafloor. The OOI will be one fully integrated system collecting data on coastal, regional and global scales. Greater knowledge of the ocean’s interrelated systems is vital for increased understanding of their effects on biodiversity, ocean and coastal ecosystems, ecosystem health and climate change. OOI will put ocean observing data in the hands of a vast user community of oceanographers, scientists and researchers, educators and the public.

This month the OOI Program is sponsoring a Community Outreach Event at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, MA, where the public can learn more about the Pioneer Array. For more details on that event see the Event Brochure here. Click here to read Pioneer Array Frequently Asked Questions and to view a Proposed Pioneer Array Mooring Location Diagram and a Pioneer Array Table for more detailed information on Latitude/Longitude & Approximate Mooring Site Depth.

The OOI Program is managed and coordinated by the OOI Project Office at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, in Washington, D.C., and is responsible for construction and initial operations of the OOI network. Four major Implementing Organizations are responsible for construction and development of the overall program. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and its partners, Oregon State University and Scripps Institution of Oceanography are responsible for the coastal and global moorings and their autonomous vehicles. The University of Washington is responsible for regional cabled seafloor systems and moorings. The University of California, San Diego, is implementing the cyberinfrastructure component. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is responsible for the education and public engagement software infrastructure.

Please continue to visit the OOI Website for updates on the upcoming Pioneer Array tests and other program news and events.