The world’s favourite exploration submarine Boaty McBoatface has made a significant discovery on its maiden scientific voyage.
The autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) has mapped the freezing ocean waters off Antarctica in 3D to reveal to scientists that seas are warming as the leave the southern continent.
Before Boaty’s dives to the ocean floor researchers had little data to show what was happening in the depths of the sea.
British scientists gathering the data say the maps show that turbulence is whisking warmer water near the top of the ocean to mix with cooler water from lower depths, raising the temperature at the bottom.
The action is linked to changing wind patterns influenced by a hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica caused by increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Seafloor turbulence mapped
Southampton’s University’s Professor Alberto Naveira Garabato, who led the project, said: “Our study is an important step in understanding how the climate change happening in remote and inhospitable Antarctic waters will impact the warming of the oceans and future sea-level rise.
“The data from Boaty McBoatface gave us a completely new way of looking at the deep ocean– the path taken by Boaty created a spatial view of the turbulence near the seafloor.”
The data was gathered by Boaty in 2017, when a British exploration ship sailed through the Orkney Passage, a narrow strip of seabed near Antarctica.
The information will be built into climate change models to help predict weather and long-term shifts in the Earth’s temperatures.
National Oceanography Centre oceanographer Eleanor Frajka-Williams said: “This was the unique new process that rapidly exchanges water between the cold and the warm and then spreads the effect of the different water properties over a larger area more efficiently than the better-known processes that mix warm surface waters with cold water from the deep sea”
4,000 metre dives
Boaty took three days to gather the data, diving up to 4,000 metres in the cold ocean.
Boaty McBoatface was the name gaining the most public support in an open vote to name the £200 million exploration ship in 2016.
But the government decided against naming the ship Boaty McBoatface and settled on the Sir David Attenborough instead, after the celebrated TV naturalist.
However, the AUV was named Boaty, in recognition of the public vote. Boaty McBoatface will join the research ship when the Sir David Attenborough enters service later in 2019.