GeoWorld August 2011

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NEWSLINK NOAA Ship Undertakes Arctic Mapping Project A ship maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) embarked on a mission in summer 2011 to map remote portions of the Arctic Ocean. The 231-foot Fairweather has been gathering data that will help NOAA and its partners update nautical charts. Although the area being surveyed traditionally has seen relatively little traffic by mariners, vessel traffic in the area has increased due to loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. "The reduction in Arctic ice coverage is leading, over time, to a growth of vessel traffic in the Arctic, and this growth is driving an increase in maritime concerns," said NOAA Corps Capt. David Neander, commanding officer of the Fairweather. "Starting in 2010, we began surveying in critical Arctic areas where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly. These areas are increasingly transited by the offshore oil-and-gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges, and fishing vessels." Fairweather's two-month mission has involved con- ducting hydrographic surveys covering 402 square nautical miles of waters in Kotzebue Sound, a regional distribution hub in northwestern Alaska, and the Arctic Circle. The hub serves 11 Arctic villages and can't accommodate deep-draft vessels. Instead, such ves- sels must anchor 15 miles offshore, with cargo brought to shore via shallow-draft barges. NOAA deems the waters being surveyed as "navigationally significant." The ship and its survey launches will use acoustic tools to measure ocean depths, collect 3-D imagery of the seafloor and detect underwater hazards that could threaten surface traffic. The survey also will address a request for bathymetry to support navigation and installation for an offshore cargo-transfer facility used for heating and fuel oil. The need for new charting in the Arctic stems from the fact that many of the soundings on modern charts date back to the 19th century, when data were gath- ered using a weighted lead line, now considered an antiquated technique. (Surveying critical areas with modern multibeam sonar technologies has emerged as a preferred technique for NOAA.) In light of such old data, the agency has under- taken efforts to update nautical charts that are con- sidered inadequate for modern needs. For example, deep-draft vessels eying an open trade route through the Arctic would require charts with more up-to-date information, and NOAA's Arctic Nautical Charting Plan, which was issued earlier in 2011, prioritizes the charts in need of updating. "NOAA's Arctic surveys and charting plan identify the additional hydrographic coverage necessary to sup- port a robust maritime transportation infrastructure in the coastal areas north of the Aleutian Islands," said NOAA Corps Capt. Doug Baird, chief of NOAA's Marine Chart Division in the Office of Coast Survey. "With the resources we have available, we are building the foundation to meet the burgeoning demands of ocean activities around Alaska's waterways." Satellite Program Provides Look at Arizona Blaze As one of the largest fires in the history of Arizona The Fairweather is working to produce better chart data for portions of the Arctic Ocean. Fresh maps become critical as changes in sea ice open up new routes. 6 GEO W ORLD / AUGUST 2O11 raged, images gathered from miles above Earth showed the extent of the Wallow Fire blaze. Images collected by the Landsat satellite program offered context to the massive fire as it burned in the Apache National Forest and mountains of eastern Arizona, near the border with New Mexico. The fire, which emerged in late May 2011 and wasn't declared fully contained until early July 2011, consumed more than 500,000 acres. The plume of smoke flowing northward from the fire affected air quality as far north as Wyoming and as far east as Georgia. NOAA

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