Program Update – Year In Review 2013

The Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) program completed a number of significant deployment milestones in 2013 and now moves forward into its final year of construction with a wide range of activities planned to bring this critical ocean observing capability to the scientific community, educators, students and the public.

The OOI, a project funded by the National Science Foundation, is a networked infrastructure of science-driven sensor systems to measure the physical, chemical, geological and biological variables in the ocean and seafloor. When complete the OOI will be one fully integrated system collecting data on coastal, regional and global scales around the clock. 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 real time ocean observing data in the hands of a vast user community of oceanographers, scientists and researchers, educators and the public.

Over the past year, the Program Team completed many tasks to bring this capability steps further toward becoming a reality. For example, the OOI team in July deployed the first global site of the OOI infrastructure at the Station Papa location in the Gulf of Alaska.

A team led by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, with their partners at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, conducted the cruise to deploy the Station Papa equipment. During the cruise, the OOI team deployed one Global Hybrid Profiler Mooring, two Mesoscale Flanking Moorings and three Global Gliders. A total of 57 instruments were deployed.

The global component of the OOI design includes a network of moorings at critical, yet under-sampled, high-latitude locations such as the Station Papa site in the North Pacific.  The array is composed of a subsurface Global Hybrid Profiler Mooring made up of two types of profilers: a surface piercing profiler operating from ~150 m to the surface, allowing satellite data telemetry, and two wire following profilers, one operating from 310 m to 2,170 m and the other from 2,195 m to 4,060 m. A prototype Global Surface Piercing Profiler was deployed as part of the Hybrid Profiler Mooring during the cruise.  Click here to read more about the Station Papa Site and Deployment.  Click here to view detailed OOI Instrument Tables on Station Papa and all other components of the OOI infrastructure.

More recently, in November 2013 the OOI Coastal and Global Scale Nodes (CGSN) team installed the first moored infrastructure in the Atlantic Ocean on the continental shelf and slope south of Martha’s Vineyard, MA. During this first phase of the Pioneer Array installation, three moorings were deployed. Members of the CGSN team conducted a cruise on the Research Vessel Knorr on Nov. 20-26 to deploy the moorings, which will be maintained at this location for approximately five years. The CGSN component of the OOI is being developed and constructed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and its partners, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Oregon State University.

The Pioneer Array will provide ocean and meteorological observations from the highly productive continental shelf to across the continental slope, allowing scientists to examine several important coastal processes including upwelling, hypoxia, shelf break fronts, and the role of filaments and eddies in cross-shelf exchange of parameters such as nutrients, heat, and biomass.

The installation included deployment of one Coastal Surface Mooring at the Pioneer Central site and two Coastal Profiler Moorings at the Upstream Inshore and Upstream Offshore sites. The three moorings contain over 30 instruments whose data will be flowing to the CGSN shore-side operations facility and on to the OOI Cyberinfrastructure servers. Pre-commissioned data are expected to be freely available to the public via the OOI Website in January.

Also in 2013, the OOI continued work on the cabled component of the infrastructure.  A  University of Washington team of engineers, scientists, and students concluded a VISIONS ’13 expedition in Jul and August in preparation for the final installation of seafloor instrumentation, planned for the summer of 2014. That 2014 installation will occur following the completion of the final testing phases of the deployed cabled components

The primary focus of the 47-day cruise onboard the R/V Thompson, using the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) ROPOS, was to deploy and test secondary infrastructure: extension cables, secondary nodes (junction boxes), and instruments at OOI cabled component study sites . This work formed an important foundation for 2014 installations that will include more cables, secondary nodes, and instruments, as well as six moored profilers.

When the system is fully operational in early 2015, each study site will be provided with real-time, two-way, high-bandwidth communication and power through 540 miles of primary electro-optical telecommunications cable connected to the shore station in Pacific City, Oregon. The primary cable was installed in 2011; seven primary nodes (high-voltage and communication junction boxes) were installed, connected and powered up in 2012; and a total of 35 miles of secondary extension cables with 13.7 miles installed in 2013 and the rest is scheduled to be installed in 2014.

During VISIONS ‘13, the UW and ROPOS team successfully deployed, tested, and verified the function of the 13.7 miles of electrical and electrical-optical extension cables. Four subnets, which included medium-power junction boxes, short-period seismometers, pressure sensors, and a high-definition video camera, were installed and fully tested. All are now on the seafloor, functional, and ready to be connected to the primary cable in 2014. Twenty undergraduate and graduate students participated on the cruise, working side by side with engineers, scientists, and the ROV ROPOS team, as well as conducting their own projects. Click here to see a more detailed summary of accomplishments.

The OOI team continued to make progress on the Educational and Public Engagement and cyberinfrastructure components of the OOI and there will be more activities in both those areas in the early months of 2014. The OOI continues to conduct outreach to the community and the public and welcomes comment, feedback and questions via the OOI website in the Comment and Question section here:

Outreach from the OOI Team continued at a number of venues over 2013 including participation in a Science & Engineering Career Fair in Northern Virginia in September. Members of the OOI were able to show of examples of equipment including an undersea glider to hundreds of school children and their families. The OOI Team also participated in the OCEANS 2013 MTS/IEEE conference in San Diego, CA, in Sept. The team is preparing for the upcoming 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting where it will hold a number of informational events to discuss the OOI and the availability of preliminary data with the community.

The OOI, a National Science Foundation-funded program, is managed by the OOI Program Management Office at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington, D.C. Please continue to visit the OOI Website for information on these events and overall updates on the OOI including links to pre-commissioned data from Station Papa and Pioneer Arrays.