Sweden initiates Mobile Underwater System facility

The Sven Lovén Centre (SLC) at the University of Gothenburg has recently been awarded a major grant from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. With this grant, Sweden now has the opportunity to build a national facility for underwater vehicles. The key to understanding our climate and the only means to determine its natural dynamics are observations of the physical, chemical, biological, hydrological and geological parameters of the Earth system, in particular the world ocean. However, the ocean remains largely unexplored due to its enormous dimensions and the low number of observation platforms available. This is particularly striking for the polar oceans, where climate change is amplified and observations are hampered by the presence of sea ice and notoriously harsh climate. Mobile unmanned submarines provide access to the largest and most hostile environment on Earth that would be otherwise almost inaccessible for humans. The perennially sea ice covered polar oceans are the least understood and belong to the most poorly studied systems on our planet. Many of the key scientific questions concerning the role of high latitude ice-ocean-atmosphere interactions in the climate system remain unanswered because of a paucity of observations.   



Figure 1: (a) Sketch of a floating glacier with the warm ocean currents circulating below the ice shelf. The AUV (not to scale) is autonomous and can operate missions below the ice shelf while the icebreaker is performing other tasks. Also indicated is a subsurface mooring array. (b-c) Salinity (b) and oxygen saturation (c) beneath the Pine Island Glacier, measured during the first successful Autosub mission by BAS [1] (d) Image of the Pine Island glacier underside (courtesy K. Nicholls, BAS) (e) Photograph of glass sponges establishing in the wake of the disintegrated Larsen B ice shelf [2].
[1] Jenkins, A. et al. (2010). Nature Geosci. 3: 468-472 ; [2] Fillinger, L. et al. (2013). Current Biology

With the new grant the SLC will provide open access to an Automated Underwater Vehicle (AUV) with under-ice-shelf capability (see Figure 1(a) ), including payload sensors suggested by the research community, and three Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Applications can be submitted online on standardized application forms to SLC. International access will be available e.g. through the Swedish affiliation to different (present and future) European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) initiatives and via other international projects like FixO3 and EUROFLEETS. The applications will be peer-reviewed by a national evaluation panel comprising objective international scientists with the relevant expertise, as well as representatives from the infrastructure staff.

A world-wide tender call for procurement will be published during autumn 2014, and the aim is to have the first tests during summer 2015.


For more information please contact Anna Wåhlin
anna dot wahlin at gu dot se

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