Robotic Carbon Explorers test the "iron hypothesis" in nature
Launched in April 2001, the two Carbon Explorers first traveled westward from Ocean Station PAPA, then turned north and eventually east, gradually drifting apart. Although frequently interrupted by high winds, they transmitted ocean carbon data regularly until their batteries gave out in December, 2001.
In the spring of 2001, two robotic Carbon Explorer floats recorded the rapid growth of phytoplankton in the upper layers of the North Pacific Ocean after a passing storm had deposited iron-rich dust from the Gobi Desert. The carbon measurements, reported in the October 25 issue of Science, are the first direct observation of wind-blown terrestrial dust fertilizing the growth of aquatic plant life.
A group of scientists led by oceanographer James K. Bishop of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratorys Earth Sciences Division engineered the deep-diving Carbon Explorers to measure particulate carbon in the upper thousand meters of the ocean. The Carbon Explorers are modified SOLO floats (Sounding Oceanographic Lagrangian Observers), originally designed by Russ Davis of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography to measure temperature and salinity at various depths. A growing number of SOLOs are now adrift in ocean currents around the world, as part of the international Project Argo to study ocean climate variability.
Paul Preuss | EurekAlert!
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