Technology and Support of Ocean and Atmospheric Research
Scripps researchers have redesigned an existing towed instrument package to
track specific paths through the ocean. SeaSoar is a remotely
controlled hydroplane that carries an instrument to measure ocean
temperature, salinity, and pressure. Equipped with a pair of stubby,
upside-down wings that double as diving planes, the craft is "flown"
through the water.
Ocean Conditions on the Web
The Scripps Marine Observatory is providing scientists and San Diego-area
boaters with real-time data on coastal ocean conditions via the
Internet. The 33-foot-diameter observatory, a converted NOAA weather
buoy, is approximately three miles off Point La Jolla, California, and
a second buoy was deployed about 15 miles off this coast. The buoys
provide the latest air temperature, water temperature, wind speed, wind
direction, surface wave, and humidity readings. Scientists use the
floating research platforms to study everything from the distribution
of phytoplankton in the ocean to long-term changes in ocean temperature
and El Niño events.
Ocean Imaging with Laser Precision
Scientists in the Scripps Marine Physical Laboratory
are developing underwater cameras and other high-tech remote-sensing
devices that are pushing the boundaries of ocean imaging. One
instrument, "3-D Sea Scan," uses a sophisticated scanning device and
laser technology to produce vivid three-dimensional "movies" of life on
the seafloor. This level of detail gives scientists a new tool for
understanding marine ecology and depicting biological activity. 3-D Sea
Scan is an optical imaging system that can view objects and organisms
with a range of accuracy down to the thickness of a penny and lateral
resolution to 1/25th of an inch. The U.S. Navy has sponsored the
development of 3-D Sea Scan to help detect underwater mines. Other
commercial uses for 3-D Sea Scan include three-dimensional sensing of
underwater pipes used in oil and gas lines. 3-D Sea Scan also can give
marine archaeologists a way of three-dimensionally characterizing
sunken ships, wreckage, and other objects.
Research Diving Program
The research diving program
at Scripps is the oldest research diving program in the United States.
Scripps pioneered the use of self-contained underwater breathing
apparatus (scuba) in research diving and was the first oceanographic
institution to use scuba on a research expedition. Scripps held the
first nonmilitary scuba class in the United States during the summer of
1951. The Scripps research diving program trains and certifies all
staff, students, and faculty who require scuba diving as part of their
research. The Scripps diving safety officer is responsible for the
safety of all Scripps divers, locally and throughout the world.
Scripps researchers have developed new imaging technology that allows them to
"see" underwater using naturally occurring sounds. Called acoustic
daylight, the technology uses the sound generated by bubbles formed at
the surface of the ocean and by biological sources such as snapping
shrimp. These sounds bounce off objects they come in contact with and
the reflected sounds are detected and focused to form an image of the
object, which can then be displayed on a monitor. Acoustic daylight
will be useful for underwater navigation and salvage in poor light
conditions, and because the technology is not detectable, it may also
prove useful for defense purposes such as detection of mines and
submarines and for protecting harbors and moored ships.
Satellite Maps of the Polar Regions
The Scripps Arctic and Antarctic Research Center
(AARC) maintains an extensive archive of high-resolution satellite
imagery of the polar regions. Satellite overpasses are tracked by
antennas located at McMurdo and Palmer stations in Antarctica, and by
U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers, and the recorded data are sent to AARC
for archiving and dissemination to the oceanographic research
community. AARC's satellite data have been used by researchers
worldwide, working in many disciplines, including Antarctic ecology,
sea-ice studies related to climate change, polar meteorology, and space
physics. AARC also provides near-real-time maps of Antarctic sea-ice
concentrations for distribution to research vessels operating at
southern high latitudes.
Wireless Technology Aids Earthquake Studies
Scripps researchers are using a prototype high-performance, wide-area wireless
network to study earthquakes. The three-year, multi-institutional
project is being led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center and
geophysicists from Scripps IGPP. Points in the wireless network include
a number of mountaintops in San Diego County, such as Mt. Woodson, Mt.
Laguna, Mt. Palomar, and Toro Peak. The network will help in monitoring
earthquake sensors, which researchers have deployed along the
earthquake faults that cut through the deserts and mountains of
The Scripps Hydraulics Laboratory
is a one-of-a-kind facility to support physical and biological
oceanographic research. Some of the specialized equipment and
facilities it offers include a 44.5-meter-long wind wave channel, a
large-wave basin to simulate beach formation and erosion, a
33-meter-long glass-walled wave channel, a 10.5-meter-deep seawater
tank, a 30-meter-long stratified flow channel, and a pressure test
The Scripps Fleet
The Scripps Fleet
of four oceanographic research vessels and the research platform FLIP
make up one of the largest academic fleets in the world. The
institution's newest research vessel, the 274-foot R/V Roger Revelle,
is named for the former director of Scripps and founder of the
University of California, San Diego. Scripps ships have
state-of-the-art research instruments to study marine life, the oceans,
the seafloor, and the atmosphere. Cruises vary from local trips to
expeditions as long as two-and-a-half years. Scripps research ships,
available to scientists around the world, have steamed more than 6
million nautical miles in support of science and the academic
Finding a Hole at the Bottom of the Ocean
Scripps scientists and engineers have developed the capability of
installing and removing equipment in small holes on the ocean floor.
Using a special control vehicle, logging tools and seismometers have
been lowered into existing holes as small as one to four meters in
diameter in 8,200 to 16,400 feet of water from research ships such as Roger Revelle and Melville.
In the past, such operations could only be carried out from drill ships
or manned submersibles. In an upcoming operation, this system will be
used to place two 984-foot-long equipment strings in adjacent boreholes
in 13,000 feet of water off Costa Rica to carry out studies of how
water permeates and circulates in Earth's crust.
The one-of-a-kind, 355-foot-long FLIP (FLoating Instrument Platform) was
designed at Scripps to provide a stable platform for acoustic research.
After being towed to a designated research location, the ballast tanks
are flooded, causing it to "flip" into a vertical position. With 300
feet of structures below the ocean surface, FLIP is an extremely stable
platform for conducting a variety of research projects.