How Boaty McBoatface has increased our understanding of climate change

18 Juin, 2019, 15:31 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • The autonomous submarine vehicle Autosub Long Range on its first mission to study temperatures at the bottom of the Southern Ocean

In its maiden mission, the yellow submarine aboard the research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough made a major discovery about how climate change causes sea levels to rise, the Telegraph reports. Instead the moniker was given to one of its autonomous submarines from the Autosub Long Range class.

Boaty McBoatface officially topped a poll over the name for a new polar research ship during a competition launched by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) in 2016.

Red-faced officials chose to ignore the popular vote and instead named the vessel the RRS Sir David Attenborough in honour of the veteran broadcaster. Unexpectedly, the results made worldwide headlines when it was announced that the most popular name choice was "Boaty McBoatface"-first suggested as a joke by a local radio DJ".

Scientists have revealed that Boaty's first mission, which took place in April 2017, involved studied the changing temperatures at the bottom of the Southern Ocean.

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During the three day mission, Boaty travelled 180 kilometres through mountainous underwater valleys measuring the temperature, saltiness and turbulence of the water at the bottom of the ocean. Using an echo sounder to navigate, Boaty successfully completed the perilous route, reaching depths of up to 4000 metres, to re-unite with the rest of the project team at the programmed rendezvous location where the sub was recovered and measurements collected along its route were downloaded.

Scientists know that factors such as the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica and rising temperatures have led to stronger winds in the Southern Ocean region in recent decades. As such, these findings increase scientific understanding of how global warming works - with implications for future computer modelling about its impacts, they said.

The data was collected as part of a joint project involving the University of Southampton, the National Oceanography Centre, the British Antarctic Survey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in MA and Princeton University.

"Our study is an important step in understanding how the climate change happening in the remote and inhospitable Arctic waters will impact the warming of the oceans as a whole", said Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato, of the University of Southhampton.

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