The British Antarctic Survey ship, the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross, has left the UK and set sail on a voyage that will traverse almost 13 000 km ending in Stanley, the Falklands.
The ‘AMT4SentinelFRM’ expedition will traverse the turbid waters of the North Sea, the autumn blooms of the Celtic Sea and Bay of Biscay, the deep ocean deserts of the North and South Atlantic, and the persistent coccolithophore blooms of the great Calcite Belt in the Southern Ocean.
The objective of the cruise is to validate ocean data from the fleet of Europe’s Sentinel-1, -2 and -3 satellites as they orbit above the Atlantic Ocean. These satellites, which were developed by ESA for the EC’s environmental monitoring programme, carry a range of sensors for observing land, ocean and atmosphere.
Scientists from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the University of Southampton and Ifremer have been busy mounting an array of visible and infrared radiometers and radar systems on the ship to acquire continuous ‘fiducial reference measurements’ to validate this new suite of satellites.
Satellite data provide a global overview of oceanic conditions, which greatly aids our understanding and management of the global climate. They are vitally important as these data cover vast areas of the ocean including regions that are difficult to access. They also provide a cost-effective means of monitoring the oceans at a resolution that cannot be achieved by traditional methods.
The instruments on board include a C-band radar and WAVEX wave radar to validate Sentinel-1 products; marine optics and biogeochemistry data to explore the application of the Sentinel-2 Multi-Spectral Instrument for ocean colour applications; and sea surface temperature, marine optics and biogeochemistry and radar data to assess the performance of the ocean colour, ocean temperature and radar altimeter instruments aboard Sentinel-3.
The preparation for the cruise started in July which culminated in the packing of approximately 250 boxes into a shipping container that was transported by road to the James Clark Ross. The container met the ship on the 17 September, and was craned onto the deck, followed by two days to unpack it and mount the laboratories. After a stop in Portsmouth for refuelling the ship headed away from UK waters on 22 September.
The ship is now the temporary home of the scientists for the next 6–7 weeks with port hole ocean views that become a window onto the ever-changing dynamics of the Atlantic Ocean.