In September 2008, scientists launched a team of undersea robot gliders to learn about changes in ocean currents.
David Smeed: We’ve been trying out the gliders as a part of a monitoring program in the North Atlantic that’s aiming to monitor the overturning circulation of the Atlantic.
You’re listening to oceanographer David Smeed of the National Oceanography Center in England. The gliders are monitoring a system of currents, known as the ‘Atlantic heat conveyor’ which influences European climate.
David Smeed: That’s the part of ocean circulation that transports heat polewards from equatorial regions. So in particular think of the Gulf Stream bringing warm water, which has an important influence on the climate of continents at high latitudes.
Scientists have relied on moored instruments, from which data is recovered only about once a year. But the torpedo-like gliders can roam and report on the sea for up to 100 days and deliver speedy information on the ocean currents.
David Smeed: They come up to the surface each day and communicate with us by satellite.
Climate change models have predicted that these ocean currents are slowing. The gliders will help scientist find out if that’s true.
Our thanks to:
Ocean Modelling and Forecasting (256/29),
National Oceanography Centre
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.