Monday, February 06, 2006

News: TOPEX/Poseidon Sails Off Into the Sunset

After a remarkable 13-year voyage of discovery, TOPEX/Poseidon, the first great oceanographic research vessel to sail into space, ended its mission Wednesday, 18th January 2006. The mission's most important achievement was to determine the patterns of ocean circulation - how heat stored in the ocean moves from one place to another.

Data obtained from Topex/Poseidon's help were instrumental in:
- providing the first continuous, global coverage of ocean surface topography
- the first decade-long global descriptions of seasonal and yearly ocean current changes
- refined estimates of rising global sea level during the past decade
- a new understanding of the role tides play in mixing the deep ocean
- developing the most accurate ever global ocean tides' models
- providing the first global data set to test ocean general circulation model performance
- demonstrating that global positioning system measurements in space could determine spacecraft positions with unprecedented accuracy, enabling rapid delivery of data.

Image credit and news source: NASA Jet Propulsion Lab

Soon we'll be eating phytoplankton.

Well, krill first. The good news is that soon is will be very, very easy to track fish shoals. Bad news are the same.

MIT researchers (Nicholas Makris, along with others at MIT) developed a new remote sensor system, which allows scientists to track fish populations, or shoals, as well as small schools, over a 10,000-square-kilometer area - a vast improvement over conventional sonar technology that can survey only about 100 square meters at a time. The image from published OAWRS imagery shows a fish shoal within an area of 14 x 14 kilometers. Wow! Exciting for ocean mappers, not so exciting for schooling fish. Probably cool for non-schooling fish who will get a competitive advantage. Too bad that most of it is slow-growing and slowly reproducing, thus not reliable as food source for us.

For the description of this new technology see:
Nicholas C. Makris, Purnima Ratilal, Deanelle T. Symonds, Srinivasan Jagannathan, Sunwoong Lee, Redwood W. Nero, 2006. Fish Population and Behavior Revealed by Instantaneous Continental Shelf–Scale Imaging. Science, 311: 660 - 663.

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