As Arctic ice recedes, countries are looking forward to faster, safer and more efficient sea routes across the top of the world. Responding to a request from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Maritime Pilots and the commercial shipping industry, NOAA sent one of its premier surveying vessels, NOAA Ship Fairweather, to detect navigational dangers in critical Arctic waters that have not been charted for more than 50 years.
Fairweather, whose homeport is Ketchikan, Alaska, will spend July and August examining seafloor features, measuring ocean depths and supplying data for updating NOAA’s nautical charts spanning 350 square nautical miles in the Bering Straits around Cape Prince of Wales. The data will also support scientific research on essential fish habitat and will establish new tidal datums in the region.
Just as the growing numbers of cars on the road cause traffic “chokepoints,” more ships traversing northern passageways can choke maritime traffic. These maritime traffic snarls occur when nautical charts are outdated, ships do not have sufficient information for navigation or changing maritime conditions – like sea level rise or movements of the seafloor – are not tracked.
“We have seen a substantial increase in activity in the region and ships are operating with woefully outdated charts,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. “I have introduced legislation that authorizes a significant increase in funding for mapping the Arctic, and I am pleased to see NOAA beginning the process. While this is a good start, we still need more resources to adequately map this region.”
“Commercial shippers aren’t the only ones needing assurances of safety in new trade routes,” notes Captain John Lowell, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “The additional potential for passenger cruises, commercial fishing and other economic activities add to pressures for adequate response to navigational risks.”
The U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone includes 568,000 square nautical miles of U.S. Arctic waters. The majority of charted Arctic waters were surveyed with obsolete technology dating back to the 1800s. Most of the shoreline along Alaska’s northern and western coasts has not been mapped since 1960, if ever, and confidence in the region’s nautical charts is extremely low.
“In Alaska we are seeing the effects of climate change more rapidly than anywhere else in the U.S.,” said Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska. “As Arctic sea ice recedes, economic activity in the region is going to expand dramatically. Alaskans rely on NOAA to help us make sure that things like oil and gas development and marine transportation are done safely and responsibly. The 21st century mapping technology the Ketchikan-based Fairweather brings to this important charting mission is a great example of what the federal government needs to do as activity in the Arctic grows.”
About a third of U.S. Arctic waters are considered navigationally significant. Of that area, NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has identified 38,000 square nautical miles as survey priorities. NOAA estimates that it will take well more than 25 years to map the prioritized areas of the Arctic seafloor.
“President Thomas Jefferson ordered a survey of the East Coast in 1807, when our country was losing more ships to unsafe navigation than to war,” explains Capt. David Neander, commanding officer of the Fairweather. “Today, we have better maps of the moon than of our own oceans. Our46-person crew is amassing ocean data that directly affects our economy and our ecosystems.”
The vessel is equipped with the latest in hydrographic survey technology – multi-beam survey systems; high-speed, high-resolution side-scan sonar; position and orientation systems; hydrographic survey launches; and an on-board data-processing server.
Fairweather is part of the NOAA fleet of ships and aircraft operated, managed and maintained by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, which includes commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps and civilian wage mariners.
Updated charts for commercial and recreational navigation are available on Coast Survey’s Web site, http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us on Facebook.
John Ewald | EurekAlert!
New insights into the ancestors of all complex life
29.05.2017 | University of Bristol
A 3-D look at the 2015 El Niño
29.05.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.
The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences
29.05.2017 | Life Sciences
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy