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Sensors Under the Ice

Understanding is the first step to action.

When it comes to climate change, better information is critical. We have good models, and our data sets are improving, but the climate is a dynamic non-linear system: we need large amounts of data from key climate tipping points in order to build better predictions. Among these key climate tipping points are the Arctic glaciers. Sea-level changes, shifts in average temperatures, and level of salt in the North Atlantic all have visible manifestations in glacial conditions.

The University of Southampton's GLACSWEB team uses pervasive sensor networks in the Briksdalsbreen glacier in Norway in order to study the effects of climate change on glaciers. The GLACSWEB sensors -- the current model is shown above -- are buried at the base of the glacier, at the sedimentary layer about 60 meters under the surface. The probes have short range radios, but can communicate with each other, eventually hopping to a base station on the surface of the glacier, which directs the data to a home server.

The University's press release has the basic information; the University's Persephone (Queen of the Underworld) site has more details about autonomous probe networks; the GLACSWEB site includes a great deal of technical information, as well as fantastic photographs and videos from the 2003 trip to the glacier.

The GLACSWEB project is a test for expanded use of these probelet networks for ecosystem study, such as coastal and flood monitoring. The sensors are small and cheap enough for easy distribution, but smart enough to be able to respond to changing conditions (such as probes going offline or being moved). The GLACSWEB program isn't the only environmental sensor project around; we've covered other projects, as well.

(Via Smart Mobs)

Comments (1)

Emily Gertz:

Fabulous stuff, Jamais. Thanks for posting this.


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