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Adopt-a-Float, Adopt-a-Drifter Day

By Tamaryn Morris, Jethan d’Hotman, Thomas Mtontsi, Ntombifikile Nxiba and Charles von der Meden, SAEON Egagasini Node
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As part of the first maintenance Agulhas System Climate Array (ASCA) cruise that was scheduled for April 2016, the South African Weather Service (SAWS) donated five satellite-tracked surface drifters to enhance the research being undertaken on the cruise.

The objective with these autonomous research platforms for the ASCA cruise was to monitor features of interest (such as the Agulhas Current and mesoscale eddies) and track their progress after deployment. This provided a ‘snap-shot’ scenario image with the data from the moorings and overside instrumentation (including Conductivity, Temperature and Depth instrument casts) and a time-series image of the features described above as they moved away from the ASCA transect from the autonomous platforms being deployed.

Satellite-tracked surface drifters remain on the surface - providing location data, sea surface temperature and barometric pressure data to passing satellites every four hours, on average. This data feeds back into the SAWS database for modelling and forecast purposes.

Involving the next generation of marine scientists

In order to make the experiment meaningful to the next generation of marine scientists, an Adopt-a-Float and Adopt-a-Drifter project was initiated for schools working with the Egagasini Node’s educational programme. Representatives from the four schools, Usasazo, Masiphumele, Sophumelela and Hout Bay High, along with their educators, met at the Department of Environmental Affairs’ East Pier workshop where they were given a hands-on demonstration on Argo floats and drifters and how they work.

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A learner writes the name of her school on an Argo float

Kayleen McMonigal (left) and Shane Elipot deploy a drifter

Surface drifter being borne along into the sunset

Each school then had the opportunity to formally adopt a float and a drifter by writing their names and those of their schools on the body of the instruments with permanent marker pens. Each instrument has a unique identification number, which enables the schools to follow their adopted instruments after deployment.

The ASCA cruise deployed the satellite-tracked drifters along the transect in mid-April and the schools have been able to follow their instruments and learn more about the Agulhas Current and the oceanography around South Africa. The Argo floats could not be deployed on this cruise, but will be deployed in July on the Winter Cruise.

It is hoped that each school will continue to take an active role in tracking their drifters and that the learners will become focused on the physics of the ocean and what drives this.

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