- What's the point of MB 06?
The idea behind MB 06 is to perform several large-scale ocean-monitoring experiments in more or less the same area and the same time. By sharing data between these different experiments, scientists can get a more complete view of complex, ever-changing ocean conditions.
- Why was MB 06 carried out in the Monterey Bay area?
The Monterey Bay area is one of the most heavily studied ocean areas in the world. Several important oceanographic research facilities and harbors provide easy access to coastal waters. At the same time, the area is very complicated from an oceanographic perspective because of the shape of the seafloor (including the Monterey Submarine Canyon) and the ever-changing winds that can cause currents to reverse in a matter of days. When northwest winds blow, they cause cold water to rise to the surface and flow along the coast (a process called upwelling), which supports wildlife and valuable fisheries. All of these factors make the area around Monterey Bay a useful test site for researchers trying to create computer models of ocean currents and upwelling.
- How many different research groups are involved in MB 06?
Scientists from about two dozen different research institutions are involved in MB 06. See list here.
- How long does MB 06 go on?
The four different experiments within MB 06 extend from July 14 to September 15, 2006. A ship's schedule is posted here.
- Who is paying for MB 06?
All four of the experiments within MB 06 are funded (at least in part) by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR). The Office of Naval Research funds a variety of oceanographic studies that help scientists and the navy understand ocean processes such as winds, currents, waves, and how light and sound travel through the ocean. A better understanding and improved ability to forecast these processes is very useful to oceanographers, boaters, fisheries researchers, coastal managers, and military planners.
- What are all those ships doing out in Monterey Bay?
About twelve different research vessels are being used during the MB 06 experiment. Many of these are medium-sized ships (at least 100 feet long) and will be staying at sea for weeks at a time. Some of these ships are being used to launch and recover scientific equipment and underwater vehicles. Others are being used as command centers where project leaders review data from a variety of sensors and direct experiments involving other ships and underwater vehicles.
- What kinds of underwater vehicles are being used?
Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are essentially small robot submarines that are programmed at the surface and then follow a pre-programmed course underwater, gathering data as they go. Two different types of AUVs are being used during the MB 06 experiment. One type is driven by propellers and can cover relatively large areas of ocean, but can only run for a day or two before their batteries wear out. The second type of AUVs are called "gliders," and have no motors, but rise and fall through the water by changing their buoyancy, gliding forward as they go. Gliders can only go about one mile-per-hour, but can stay at sea for months at a time.
- How are these underwater vehicles controlled?
Propeller-driven AUVs are often programmed on board a ship before they are launched, and follow this preprogrammed path, returning to the surface when they are done. Gliders come up to the surface periodically (every few minutes to once an hour) and radio their position via satellite to computers on shore. For the MB 06 experiment, these shore-side computers are linked to a central coordinating computer that decides what paths the gliders should take so that they can work together to monitor currents and other ocean conditions most efficiently.
Last updated: Feb. 06, 2009