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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
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Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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Australia Resorts to Gunboat Climatology
20 July 2011 11:36 am
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA—Under threat from pirates, Australian researchers have enlisted naval muscle to plug a critical gap in climate monitoring in the Indian Ocean.
Over the past 2 years, pirates operating out of conflict-riven Somalia have severely disrupted research, says Ann Thresher, an oceanographer at the Wealth from Ocean Flagship program of CSIRO, Australia's national science agency. Particularly hard hit is ARGO, an international program (link: http://www.argo.net/) under which Australian researchers track the Indian Ocean Dipole, a fluctuation of sub-surface temperatures in the equatorial region of the southeastern and the western Indian Ocean. The fluctuation's strength is used to predict floods or droughts across Australia. To measure the Indian Ocean dipole, 2-meter-long lithium battery-powered buoys, which look like bright yellow rockets, record temperature, pressure, and salinity.
CSIRO generally receives assistance from commercial ships to deploy buoys on its behalf. But piracy has forced ships to change their routes. "We have not been able to seed about one-quarter of the Indian Ocean [with buoys] since the increase in piracy," Thresher says. "Without that our predictions are suffering; that's why we had to find another way."
In March, researchers were denied permission by the Seychelles government to place buoys in their territorial waters because of the piracy risk. CSIRO later contacted the Australian navy, which has agreed to deploy eight or nine buoys in the Gulf of Aden in the next 4 to 6 months. In a separate initiative, a U.S. naval vessel is carrying one CSIRO buoy and nine more from the United Kingdom and is expected to deploy them on the east coast of Africa next month.