Boaty McBoatface has made an important climate change discovery her maiden outing.
The maiden voyage of Boaty McBoatface, the lead boat of the Autosub Long Range-class of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) onboard the RRS Sir David Attenborough, has resulted in an important climate science discovery. The team of Scientists operating the craft believe that data it has collected will allow them to create more accurate predictions of changing sea levels.
Boaty has uncovered a key process which links increasing Antarctic winds to higher sea temperatures. This, in turn, seems to be fuelling increasing sea levels. The team believe that this is because increased wind cools water on the bottom of the ocean. This forces it to travel faster and creates turbulence as the cool water mixes with warmer waters above it.
Interestingly the wind speeds above the Southern Ocean have been getting stronger not just due to increased greenhouse gasses but because of the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica.
The warming of water on the sea bed is a significant contributor to rising sea levels.
Climate experts have not factored the newly discovered mechanism into current models that predict how increased global temperatures will affect our oceans. The new information will allow them to update forecasts.
The new data is a result of a three-day research mission in which the sub travelled 112 miles at depths of up to 4,000 metres and passed through underwater mountains to measure salt, temperature and water turbulence.
The breakthrough in understanding how this mechanism works also used data from the research vessel RRS James Clark Ross.
Boatys mission was part of a climate science project run by the University of Southampton, the National Oceanography Centre, the British Antarctic Survey, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Princeton University.
The sub is owned by Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The submersible name was the result of a public vote.