D334: Monitoring ocean circulation in the Atlantic


Cruise diary

18 November 2008

Craig writes...

"Our transit back to the Eastern Boundary is now complete and mooring operations are underway again, servicing the final line on this cruise.  These moorings are the ‘shallow moorings’ designed to monitor how ocean characteristics change on the continental slope leading up to the coast of West Africa (compare with the ‘tall moorings’ mentioned earlier on in the blog which monitor how the deep ocean, largely free of friction with land, circulates).

The passage back from the Mid Atlantic Ridge has passed quickly. The onboard sensors log continuously which gives us plenty of data to process whilst we await the next phase of mooring recovery.  These data include constant meteorological readings. These readings, in turn, are fed back to national forecasting agencies in order to help configure the numerical computer models of the climate system that produce the weather forecasts you see on websites, TV and hear on the radio. The data are also fed in to longer data sets that contribute to the baseline record of global air and sea-surface temperature which allows us to estimate by how much the Earth’s temperature changes each year.  

Above: Our current position!
The transit from the Mid-Atlantic is complete

There has also been time to socialise and recharge the batteries.  The highlight here has been a very entertaining pub quiz organised by John, and others, from Discovery’s crew, which saw, perhaps somewhat suspiciously, the Captain’s team, bolstered by Damien and technician Rob McLachlan impart a crushing victory on the other contenders! 

Discovery’s foremast houses the meteorological sensors continuously logging data such as air temperature, pressure, radiation and humidity.  Note the circle-diamond-circle signal pattern - a warning to other vessels that our manouverability is limited, whilst a mooring is deployed.


The location of RRS Discovery 2 days ago – as shown on a weather forecast ‘analysis’ (i.e. present conditions) map.  The contour lines are isobars – lines of constant pressure and each square a ship. Where isobars are packed tight together winds are stronger. When this report was filed we were in a very calm location, fine settled whether, although it is windier now

The final week will see almost back-to-back mooring operations and all hands busy. These operations will be reasonably close to shore now and if the partly-hazy conditions improve we are bound to see the imposing peak of Tenerife’s Mount Tiede watching us from over the horizon. A sign that our return to land is now not too far off..."

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