Technology development

Marine Biogeochemistry Group

Two surface buoys carrying autonomous carbon instruments just offshore of Honolulu, Hawaii in 2013. Image from Fassbender et al., 2015, doi: 10.1021/es5047183

The ongoing development and commercialization of mobile ocean platforms is providing a wealth of opportunities to collect information about the ocean carbon cycle autonomously. In particular, autonomous surface vehicles are ideal platforms for evaluating carbon dioxide (CO2) exchange between the ocean and atmosphere in remote ocean regions. To take advantage of these platforms, measurement technologies must be integrated.

Annual mean sea-air carbon dioxide flux and the location of ~40 moored surface buoys (indicated by plus signs) that measure carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and surface ocean, which contribute to NOAA’s global climate array.

Thus far, CO2 partial pressure (pCO2) and pH sensors have been successfully deployed on a number of autonomous surface vehicles, such as the Wave Glider and Saildrone, and surface moorings. To further expand the tools available for global carbon cycle research, our group is collaborating with scientists and engineers at MBARI, as well as at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory and the University of Hawaii, to develop an instrument that will measure surface ocean pCO2 and dissolved inorganic carbon from autonomous surface vehicles and moored platforms, such as NOAA’s CO2 mooring array. This collaborative project builds from the prior work of numerous MBARI scientists and engineers (e.g., Friederich et al., 1995; Sutton et al., 2014; Fassbender et al. 2016; Chavez et al., 2017).


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