From the Magazine Magazine

Old Mine Detectors Find New Purpose in the Battle Against Climate Change

Retrofitted Submersibles might offer a better understanding the deep sea carbon cycle.

The Dorado is a 27-foot diesel-fueled brute, an unmanned submersible vehicle that's
been used to detect underwater mines in conflict zones all over the world. Now it's
on a new mission, this time in the name of global warming: The Dorado will measure
how much carbon dioxide the sea is absorbing from the atmosphere.

For climate researchers, this is uncharted territory. Much of the exchange between
air and water happens far from shore in ocean eddies, large whirlpools up to 60
miles across. Until now, no underwater research vehicles were powerful enough to
hurtle through the swirling waters. "We need fast, stable technology for detailed
measurements" in the places where most carbon is being absorbed in the ocean,
explains Doug Wallace, a chemical oceanographer at Dalhousie University in Halifax,
Nova Scotia.

During its first test drive off the Canadian coast in early 2015, the Dorado will
transmit its results in real time as it charges through the depths, potentially
unlocking the mysteries of the changing dispersion, absorption, and exchange of
carbon in previously inaccessible stretches of ocean.

Wallace and his team will feed the findings into climate models to create better
forecasts for sea-level rise and disruptions in the marine food chain in increasingly
acidic waters. The race to head off climate change is on, and the Dorado is making
haste.

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