Shallow Profiler Moorings

A first glimpse of the shallow winched profiler coming out of its docking station at the base of Axial Seamount. NSF/OOI/UW/ISS; Dive R1842; V15.

The Shallow Profiler Mooring is a custom-built, two-legged mooring (tethered to the seafloor by one electro-optical cable and one mechanical anchor leg) designed by the UW Applied Physics Laboratory (APL). Each mooring includes a 3.66 m-across, 7,000 lb platform at ~200 m water depth. The platform, which receives up to 3 kW power from the seafloor cable, hosts a stationary, instrumented Platform Interface Assembly (PIA) and a winched Science Pod that traverses the upper ~200 m of the water column (one complete up-and-down trip = one "profile"). The Science Pod assembly includes a long-lived, underwater optical slip ring on the turning winch for live communications and data transmission, as well as a rugged, controllable underwater level wind to let the cabled, buoyant Science Pod rise and descend in the water column. 

Shallow Profiler Moorings on the Regional Cabled Array (RCA) are located at the Slope Base, Endurance Offshore, and Axial Base sites, spanning coastal to blue-water environments. The high-power and real-time two-way communication capabilities of the RCA are used to interface with an array of up to 18 science instruments. The operating system provides command and control capabilities that include implementation of predefined missions, switching of missions, and changing of mission parameters ‘on the fly’ with commands from the UW Operations Center. Over 40,000 profiles have been completed since 2015, providing unprecedented, high-resolution data on processes operating in the upper 200 m of the water column.

The Oregon Slope Base Shallow Profiler, engulfed in soft sunlight, rises to ~5 m beneath the ocean’s surface. It is measuring nutrients, dissolved oxygen, seawater acidity, temperature, chlorophyll, and carbon dioxide concentrations at high temporal and spatial resolution. All data are streamed live back to shore and available to a global community Credit: NSF-OOI/UW/CSSF; V15.

Profiler missions include 9 trips/day through the water column and automated step functions to stop the profiler pod at specific depths and turning of instruments on and off that require stationary measurements (e.g. CO2). The profiler pod travels at 5 cm/s on upcasts, while downcasts move at 10 cm/s with predefined stops.

Engineering (including video) and science data are streamed back live to shore. Data channel capacity from the profilers exceeds 40 Mbps. Inputs such as 3D gyro, acceleration, pressure-depth, and deployed cable calculations are monitored to assure safe operations during any sea state. The profilers are designed to approach within 5 m of the surface. Wave height calculations, based on ‘worst case’ peak-trough conditions, are done when the profiler Science Pod is in the docking station. At five meters, or three times the wave height, the Science Pod missions are modified to prevent incursion into unsafe conditions in the overlying water column.

Instruments on the PIA  at Slope and Axial Base include pH, broadband hydrophone, CTD-dissolved oxygen (O2), 5-beam Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), 150 kHz ADCP and a digital still camera. At the OR Offshore site, instruments include zooplankton, pH, PCO2, and CTD-O2 sensors.

The ROV ROPOS begins its ~600 ft descent to the Shallow Profiler Mooring at the Slope Base site with an instrumented Winched Shallow Profiler ‘pod’ latched to its underbelly. Credit: Mitch Elend, University of Washington, V15.

Instruments on the winched Science Pod at all sites include CTD- O2, nitrate, pH, optical attenuation, spectral irradiance, PAR, PCO2, fluorometer, and a current meter- temperature sensor. Expansion capabilities are also built into the mooring assembly for addition of new technologies  (e.g. flow cytometers, 3D imagers, DNA analyzers).

A complementary set of seafloor instruments document near-bottom and water-column processes. Instruments include a 150-kHz ADCP, broadband hydrophone, optical attenuation, CTD-O2, and a HPIES (Horizontal Electric Field, Pressure and Inverted Echo Sounder). In addition, a geophysical–focused suite of instruments includes a broadband seismometer, low-frequency hydrophone, current meter, pressure sensor, and temperature.

In concert, the instrument and platform capabilities allow high temporal and spatial measurements to be made that were never before possible through live data flow and command and control. Current instruments on the platforms were included to address science questions that vary from the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, to the understanding internal waves within the oceans. Because of mission control capabilities, instruments on the winched Science Pod are particularly well suited to examine, in real-time, biologically-rich thin layers 1-2 m thick or less, stemming from small scale chemical or hydrodynamic gradients. Corresponding sensor arrays near the seafloor address hypoxia events, internal tides and flow of currents onto the shelf.