Published on August 2nd, 2013 | by Amber Archangel0
PlanetSolar — Largest Solar Boat — Further North Than Ever Before
From the ship’s blog, Violeta writes: “We arrived at the edge of the Gulf Stream and are increasing the pace of vertical profiles. Faithful to ‘zigzagodromy’, we are following the boundary region of the whirlpool, eddy, which detaches from the main current by successively deploying the probe both inside the whirlpool and just outside of it. These whirlpools are circular current systems caused by changes in water temperature (and therefore in density), as well as by the rotational force of the Earth (the Coriolis force).”
The following is also an official news release from PlanetSolar:
PlanetSolar drops anchor in St. John’s, the northernmost point the solar vessel has ever reached
During the afternoon of August 1, the gigantic catamaran arrived in the city of St. John’s, Canada. Leaving Halifax, Canada, on July 22, the ship and her crew are continuing on their “PlanetSolar DeepWater” scientific expedition, a measurement campaign conducted along the Gulf Stream. This scientific adventure is a unique opportunity for researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) to observe and analyze eddies. By reaching Newfoundland, a region known for its difficult navigational conditions and frequent fog, the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar demonstrated that solar navigation is possible even in the heart of areas with intermittent sunlight.
St. John’s is the most northerly point the world’s largest solar boat has ever reached. After leaving Halifax, the journey that separated the two Canadian cities enabled UNIGE scientists to pursue their research and analysis of the phenomenon of eddies—large vortices that break away from the main part of the Gulf Stream. They have an effect on heat exchanges with the atmosphere and phytoplankton growth. Between Boston and Halifax, the data collected showed a noticeable increase in the number of aerosols as the ship gradually moved closer to Canada.
Making Holes in the Water
This time, the UNIGE scientific team intercepted the vortices off the coast of Nova Scotia.
“Although the data collected thus far is still in a very preliminary phase of analysis, the aerosol measurements seem to suggest that the quantity of microparticles suspended in the air, emitted by the ocean, is higher than anticipated. The truth is, our knowledge about oceanic aerosols is very incomplete, and the measurements taken by the “Biobox” (developed by the Applied Physics Groups at the University of Geneva) could deliver completely unprecedented results and thereby shed new light on oceanic influence on climate,” says Professor Martin Beniston, climatologist and director of the Institute of Environmental Science at UNIGE.
“This trip, carried out in a zigzag, was tricky, and was a significant challenge in terms of solar navigation,” says Gérard d’Aboville, captain of the MS Tûranor PlanetSolar. “In fact, the Newfoundland region is known for its dense fog, because the cold Labrador Current meets the warm Gulf Stream Current there. In addition, a northeasterly wind slowed down our journey,” adds d’Aboville.
The stopover in St. John’s will last until August 5, allowing the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” scientific teammates a rotation. The MS Tûranor PlanetSolar will then set off into the vastness of the North Atlantic, heading for the United Kingdom. Over 3’500 kilometers await the ship and her crew.
The “PlanetSolar DeepWater” scientific expedition
Launched in Florida in early June, the “PlanetSolar DeepWater” expedition is striving to collect a continuous series of physical and biological measurements along the Gulf Stream, both in the water and in the air, using advanced instruments and the expertise of the UNIGE scientists. Led by Professor Martin Beniston, climatologist and director of the Institute of Environmental Science at UNIGE, the research team is studying the key parameters of climate regulation, namely aerosols and phytoplankton, in order to better understand the complex interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, as well as the role these interactions play in climate change.
More from the ship’s blog: “Analogous to the cyclonic and anti-cyclonic systems that we are used to seeing on atmospheric maps during weather reports, these whirlpools can be spotted from space on thermal images of the sea’s surface. We consult these satellite maps to choose our trajectory. We also take into account the chlorophyll content observed from space.” Violeta writes more about their location and process on the PlanetSolar blog if you’d like to read more.