Electromagnetism in the Ocean
Project Manager/Lead Engineer: Jim Bellingham
This project will examine propagation of electromagnetic signals in seawater, especially along the seawater-seafloor interface. An electrical communication system would provide seafloor observatories with a new, and possibly much simpler, method to communicate with stand-alone instruments. The primary goal is to develop a sufficient understanding of electromagnetism in the ocean to determine whether an electrical communications system might support seafloor-to-seafloor connectivity in a manner useful to seafloor observatories. One of the great strengths of these observatories is that they provide a communication channel to the ocean interior. At present, instruments have to be physically connected to the observatory in order to take advantage of the cable. For all but shallow observatory sites this requires an ROV and limits the placement of instruments. Investigation during 2003 has identified some interesting communication possibilities, including direct-current methods, as well as the likelihood of improved communications near the seafloor as compared to within the water column. However, this is being supported by a more fundamental investigation of the electromagnetic properties of seawater (and the seafloor) and the potential for related approaches to measuring seawater properties is possible.