New Wave Media

February 21, 2023

OOI‘s Pioneer Array Relocating to Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight

Three OOI Coastal Surface Moorings stand ready on deck as the R/V Neil Armstrong prepares for departure for a Pioneer Array deployment off the coast of New England.  Each fully instrumented mooring weighs in at more than 8,000 pounds, making it necessary to carefully coordinate their movement on deck and deployment. Only one of these will be deployed in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight during the initial test deployment.
Credit: Rebecca Travis /© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Three OOI Coastal Surface Moorings stand ready on deck as the R/V Neil Armstrong prepares for departure for a Pioneer Array deployment off the coast of New England. Each fully instrumented mooring weighs in at more than 8,000 pounds, making it necessary to carefully coordinate their movement on deck and deployment. Only one of these will be deployed in the Southern Mid-Atlantic Bight during the initial test deployment. Credit: Rebecca Travis /© Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

A team of scientists and engineers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) left Charleston, SC aboard the R/V Neil Armstrong to begin test deployments in preparation for the installation of an Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) ocean observing system in its new location in the southern Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB). The science team will deploy two test moorings off the coast of North Carolina, occupying shallow and deep sites of the proposed array. The deployments will supplement computer modeling to ensure the mooring designs perform as expected in the MAB environment. Once the array is fully operational in 2024, the ocean data collected will be available online in near real-time to anyone with an Internet connection at Oceanobservatories.org.

“This new Pioneer Array location in the MAB offers many opportunities for scientists to obtain data to further their research, and will provide better insight into conditions in the area for a variety of stakeholders,“ said Al Plueddemann, Project Scientist for OOI’s Coastal and Global Scale Nodes group at WHOI, which is responsible for operation of the Pioneer Array. “We welcome researchers, educators, and industry members to reach out to us to explore ways we might work together to maximize the usefulness of the data.”  

The OOI is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to collect and deliver ocean data in select locations for 25 years or more. The OOI’s Coastal Pioneer Array was designed to be relocatable, and its first deployment was off the coast of New England at the Continental Shelf/Slope interface, where it collected data from 2016 until it was recovered in September 2022. The new location off the coast of North Carolina was chosen by NSF based on input from the science community during a series of NSF-sponsored workshops in 2022.


An A-frame at the stern of the ship is used to lift an OOI Coastal Surface Mooring into the water at the start of the deployment.  A team secures guidelines to ensure its movements are controlled.  Credit: Darlene Trew Crist/ © Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution


Dr. Reide Corbett, Executive Director of the ECU’s Coastal Studies Institute (CSI), is enthusiastic about the opportunities the Pioneer Array will bring to the region. “The cross-shelf suite of instrumentation off northeastern North Carolina’s coast is in a region of complex physics and critical ecosystem dynamics that draws interest from many disciplines and creates opportunities for transformational science. This is also in a region with a growing renewable energy sector, including two active offshore wind leases, with opportunities to partner with the agencies involved. The Coastal Studies Institute is excited about the observations that will be made from these instruments, allowing us to better address climate change influences in the coastal ocean, and improve ocean/weather/storm forecasts through data sharing.  Beyond just the instruments in the water, the new partnerships and collaborations created as part of this deployment will provide the ability to better engage this socio-economically diverse region, with disadvantaged groups more impacted by sea level rise and climate change compared to many coastal regions. This broad network of partnerships across the region will provide a mechanism to drive knowledge to action.”, states Corbett.

An update on the Pioneer Array relocation is planned for April 20 at 6 pm at the Coastal Studies Institute on East Carolina University’s Outer Banks Campus. 

Contributing to the CSI “Science on the Sound” lecture series, WHOI’s Dr. Plueddemann will discuss the Pioneer Array infrastructure, instrumentation, and what is planned for its upcoming move off the North Carolina coast. The event is free and open to the public. For those unable to attend, the program will be live-streamed, as well as archived for later viewing, on the CSI YouTube Channel.

Offshore conditions can be brutal for moorings that remain in the water for six-month deployments.  The new location for the OOI’s Coastal Pioneer Array is designed to withstand treacherous conditions, including extreme storms.  Credit: ©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The February 2024 edition of Marine Technology Reporter is focused on Oceanographic topics and technologies.
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