Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Monterey Bay 2006 field experiments MB2006 Monterey Bay 06 MB06
This illustration shows some of the types of oceanographic instruments deployed during the MB 06 experiment. The colored bands are temperature cross-sections through the bay waters. Image: David Fierstein (c) 2003 MBARI.
Note: To view surface water temperatures (red is warm; blue is cold), move cursor over dashed lines at right: = = = = = =

During fall 2006, dozens of oceanographic researchers performed a series of unique experiments in the waters off Central California. Because these experiments were centered around Monterey Bay, this research program is known as "Monterey Bay 2006" (abbreviated "MB 06"). MB 06 took place over a two-month period from mid-July through mid-September 2006, and involved over a dozen different institutions, thirteen research vessels, over three dozen robot submarines, and many other fixed and drifting oceanographic instruments.

The Monterey Bay area was chosen for these experiments because the uneven seafloor and constantly changing currents create challenges for field researchers (who must decide where to put their instruments) as well as for computer modeling experts (who must take into account the dynamic characteristics of the area). The region has also been extensively studied, so large amounts of background data were readily available. Finally, sea conditions during July and August are usually dynamic enough to create upwelling, yet not so severe that research vessels have a hard time operating.

The Monterey Bay 2006 field program consisted of four large field experiments that are funded primarily by the Office of Naval Research. These experiments examined coastal ocean processes from different perspectives and at different physical scales. The following paragraphs summarize each of these four experiments. Detailed information can be obtained from the links at left.

Adaptive sampling and prediction (ASAP)

The goals of the ASAP experiment were: 1) To find out the most efficient ways of using autonomous ocean vehicles, such as undersea gliders, to study marine processes such as the upwelling of cold water that takes place along the Central California Coast; 2) To use the real-time data gathered by autonomous vehicles and other oceanographic instruments to improve computer models of ocean circulation; and 3) To refine these computer models so that they can reliably predict complex processes such as upwelling-related currents. In order to achieve these goals, ASAP researchers used a technique called "adaptive sampling," in which the paths of undersea gliders are modified each day in order to get the most useful data. The scientists also studied how fleets of gliders can travel in different "formations" to cover hundreds of cubic kilometers of constantly evolving ocean. ASAP built on previous research performed during the 2003 Autonomous Ocean Sampling Network (AOSN) experiment.

Assessing the effects of submesoscale ocean parameterizations (AESOP)
The AESOP experiment complemented the ASAP experiment by looking at some of the complex ocean processes that were not covered by existing computer models. For example, the Central California coast is often affected by "internal waves," which may not show at the surface, but can cause strong mixing of subsurface waters. AESOP attempted to determine how such features affect currents, eddies, and heat transfer in coastal waters within 20 to 100 kilometers of shore.

Layered organization in the coastal ocean (LOCO)
The LOCO experiment looked at a recently-discovered biological phenomenon—dense populations of microscopic algae and other organisms that form distinct layers beneath the ocean surface. Such biological layers may be less than a meter thick, but can extend horizontally for dozens of kilometers. The LOCO experiment studied how these layers form, how they can be detected, how the organisms within these layers interact, and how the layers affect the transport of light and sound through the ocean waters.

Undersea persistent surveillance (UPS)
The UPS experiment involved monitoring central coast waters using extremely sensitive underwater microphones, electromagnetic sensors, and other oceanographic instruments. Some of these instruments were mounted on the seafloor; others were carried by robot submarines such as gliders and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). The instruments were used as a system to monitor the ocean environment and to track the many research vessels that will be traversing Central Coast waters during the MB 06 experiment. This helped researchers understand how ocean layers and currents affect the transmission of sounds and electrical and magnetic signals generated by ships (as well as by marine mammals and submarines).

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Last updated: Feb. 06, 2009