Royal Navy submarines to inform climate change research

Data col­lect­ed by Roy­al Navy sub­marines, as part of stan­dard oper­a­tions, is set to pro­vide clues on Arc­tic cli­mate change.

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A Roy­al Navy sub­mariner shov­els Arc­tic ice from the upper deck of HMS Tire­less (stock image) [Pic­ture: POA(Phot) Ter­ry Seward, Crown Copyright/MOD 2007]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

Lit­tle is known about the areas of water under­neath the Arc­tic ice, as sen­sors are dif­fi­cult to place for the long-term. Now, UK envi­ron­men­tal researchers are to be pre­sent­ed with pre­vi­ous­ly unavail­able infor­ma­tion, thanks to the Min­istry of Defence.

Envi­ron­men­tal data such as water tem­per­a­ture and salt con­tent is rou­tine­ly mon­i­tored by all Roy­al Navy ves­sels, includ­ing sub­marines, and so the data set from a UK sub­ma­rine mis­sion can pro­vide a snap­shot of con­di­tions under the ice and shed light on the changes tak­ing place in the Arc­tic.

The MOD’s Defence Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Lab­o­ra­to­ry (Dstl) is work­ing with the Nat­ur­al Envi­ron­ment Research Coun­cil (NERC) and the UK Hydro­graph­ic Office to pre­pare data for the ben­e­fit of envi­ron­men­tal researchers.

Dstl was involved in the ear­ly part of the project, con­sult­ing with researchers and assess­ing which infor­ma­tion would be appro­pri­ate for their stud­ies. The project, known as the Sub­ma­rine Esti­mates of Arc­tic Tur­bu­lence Spec­tra, is fund­ed through NERC’s Arc­tic Research Pro­gramme.

It will see the con­trolled release of sci­en­tif­ic data on record­ed envi­ron­men­tal changes, pos­si­bly paving the way for fur­ther data to be released in the future.

“The MOD is excit­ed by this project since it puts UK researchers at the fore­front of cli­mate change sci­ence. Any progress will, ulti­mate­ly, lead to an improved oceano­graph­ic prod­uct for Roy­al Navy oper­a­tions.”
Tim Clarke

Data will be released to aca­d­e­mics at NERC’s Nation­al Oceanog­ra­phy Cen­tre (NOC), based at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Southamp­ton Water­front Cam­pus, for analy­sis. This could, for the first time, uncov­er the impact of cli­mate change in rela­tion to what’s hap­pen­ing in the Arc­tic.

Dstl marine sci­en­tist Tim Clarke said:

“This has real­ly been a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort and with­out co-oper­a­tion of all bod­ies involved it would not have been pos­si­ble.

“What this rep­re­sents is the avail­abil­i­ty of impor­tant sci­en­tif­ic data, pre­vi­ous­ly inac­ces­si­ble, which can only move the study for­ward.

“The MOD is excit­ed by this project since it puts UK researchers at the fore­front of cli­mate change sci­ence. Any progress will, ulti­mate­ly, lead to an improved oceano­graph­ic prod­uct for Roy­al Navy oper­a­tions.”

NOC researcher John Allen said:

“We’re delight­ed that this infor­ma­tion will be avail­able and thank each of the organ­i­sa­tions who have been instru­men­tal in releas­ing this data.

“It’s real­ly impor­tant to have this infor­ma­tion as it will enable us to clear­ly mea­sure the changes which have occurred in recent years, which is para­mount for the accu­ra­cy, wider impact and lega­cy of glob­al envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence research.”

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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