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James R. Valdes and James F. Price

Abstract

The authors have designed and deployed a neutrally buoyant sediment trap (NBST) intended for use in the upper ocean. The aim was to minimize hydrodynamic flow interference by making a sediment trap that drifted freely with the ambient current. The principal design problem was to make the NBST descend to and stay near a prescribed depth. For a variety of reasons, the most success has been with NBSTs that were autoballasted by means of a microprocessor-controlled volume changer. Autoballasting NBSTs has demonstrated an ability to hold a prescribed depth to within 10 m.

There have been two successful, concurrent deployments of NBSTs and conventional surface-tethered sediment traps (STSTs) at the Bermuda Atlantic Times Series site. During both periods the observed flow past the STSTs was low, about 0.05 m s−1, so that hydrodynamic effects on the STSTs would have been minimized. Comparisons of the trap results (described in a companion paper by Buesseler et al.) indicate that the total mass of collected material was generally similar in the two traps. Other variables, including the composition of the material and the fraction contributed by swimmers, were markedly different (swimmers are small animals that enter a trap intact and presumably alive). These are intriguing results but could not be conclusive since there is no absolute standard for such measurements. Future field work that includes comprehensive geochemical sampling will be required to learn which sediment trapping method yields the more useful observations.

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Robert A. Weller, Daniel L. Rudnick, Nancy J. Pennington, Richard P. Trask, and James R. Valdes

Abstract

Measurements of upper ocean variability were made in the subtropical convergence zone southwest of Bermuda from an array of five surface moorings set with spacings of 16 to 53 km. The intent was to observe oceanic fronts and to quantify the spatial gradients associated with them. Vector Measuring Current Meters (VMCMS) and Vector Averaging Current Meters (VACMS) were attached to the mooring lines beneath the surface buoys to measure velocities and temperatures. Modifications were made to the VMCMs in an attempt to improve data return. The performance and accuracy of these moored instruments are examined. Predeployment and postdeployment calibrations were carried out; and other sources of error, such as mooring motion, are considered. A number of oceanic fronts passed through the moored array during the experiment, and the horizontal gradients observed in the velocity and temperature fields were significantly larger than the uncertainties in measuring those gradients.

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Heather H. Furey, M. Femke de Jong, James R. Valdes, and Amy S. Bower

Abstract

Two submerged autonomous launch platforms (SALPs) were deployed at 500-m depth on a deep-water mooring in the northeastern Labrador Sea from 2007 to 2009 to automatically release profiling floats into passing warm-core anticyclonic Irminger Rings (IRs). The objective was to investigate the rings’ vertical structure and evolution as they drifted from their formation site near the western coast of Greenland to the area of deep convection in the south-central part of the basin. Mechanically and electronically, the SALP worked well: 10 out of 11 floats were successfully released from the mooring over 2 years. However, getting floats trapped in eddy cores using a preprogrammed release algorithm based on temperature and pressure (a proxy for current speed) measured by the SALPs met with limited success mainly because 1) the floats settled at a park pressure that was initially too deep, below the volume of water trapped in the eddy core; 2) the eddies translated past the mooring much more quickly than anticipated; and 3) there is a seasonal cycle in both background and eddy core temperature that was not known a priori and therefore not accounted for in the release algorithm. The other mooring instruments (100–3000 m) revealed that 12 anticyclones passed by the mooring in the 2-yr monitoring period. Using this independent information, the authors assessed and improved the release algorithm, still based on ocean conditions measured at one depth, and found that much better performance could have been achieved with an algorithm that allowed for faster eddy translation rates and the seasonal temperature cycle.

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