Monday, 21 July 2008

Seals aid climate modelling

Oceanographic data collected by seals as part of the ‘Marine Mammals Exploring the Oceans – Pole to Pole’ (MEOP) project are now quickly made available to climate modellers.

State of the art instrumentation (CTD tags) developed by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) are attached to over 150 individual seals worldwide. These instruments record the temperature and salinity profile of the water column as the seals dive. On surfacing, the data are transmitted via satellites to SMRU.

A seal with a CTD tag attached ©

Through our liaison partnership, the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) have been working with SMRU to make these data available via the Global Telecommunications System (GTS). We are responsible for downloading, encoding and delivering data to the GTS on a daily basis. This allows the near real-time data collected by the seals to be incorporated into various meteorological and oceanographic models.

More about MEOP

MEOP, an international project, started in July 2007 as part of the fourth International Polar Year (IPY). It involves tagging deep-diving seal species to provide data on their location and behaviour, and information relating to the waters they inhabit.

The project's aims are two-fold
  • to gain a better understanding of the behaviour of seals
  • to collect unique and valuable oceanographic data from logistically difficult Polar areas
It builds on the previous projects, Southern Elephant Seals as Oceanographic Samplers (SEaOS) and the South Atlantic Variability Experiment (SAVEX) which sought to gain a better understanding of how elephant seals interact with their physical environment.

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