NOAA: Global ocean drifter deployed off of South Florida

Miami among six NOAA Earth Day drifter sites

21st century "message in a bottle" collects climate data

April 27, 2012

Scuba diver.

Key Biscayne Students pose with the NOAA difter. (Credit: NOAA)

In celebration of Earth Day, three area students deployed a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ocean drifter today, contributing to a global array that yields vital environmental data. The students, all of Key Biscayne K-8 Center, are Carmen Mollet, 15, Guillermina Pons, 14, and Sophia Ortega, 12.

"We're extremely proud of our students. Each won a prize in NOAA's Adopt a Drifter contest, which gives students across the country, many with international partners, the chance to learn about our environment right in their classrooms, and with the same near real time data that ocean and climate scientists use," said Erica Cheva, lead science teacher at Key Biscayne K-8 Center. Students here are partnering with students at the International Preparatory School in Santiago, Chile.

"A drifting buoy is like a 21st-century message in a bottle, except it is equipped with oceanographic and climate sensors that let it transmit scientific measurements by satellite, helping us understand the oceans," said Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA assistant secretary for environmental observation and prediction. "With better understanding, we can better predict the strength of approaching hurricanes, the distribution of fish and other marine species, and the fate of marine pollution and debris. Students in schools across the country can adopt a drifter, and follow its journey via the internet. This relationship makes climate and ocean science more tangible, as students discover the workings of the earth through the lens of their buoy."

Scuba diver.

Key Biscayne Students pose with the NOAA difter.
High resolution. (Credit: NOAA)

The 44-pound drifter will collect data about ocean currents and also measure surface temperature. These currents carry heat from place to place, which affects climate. While satellite technology makes sea surface temperature measurements possible from space, drifters are needed to ensure these measurements are accurate. Without drifter observations to correct satellite measurements, dust and other elements in the atmosphere can cause errors. Each drifter is part of a global ocean array that students can follow online, along with the particular drifter they adopted.

While NOAA's Global Drifter Program deploys, monitors, and collects data from buoys all over the world's oceans, the program is locally managed out of NOAA's Miami-based research laboratory on Virginia Key, the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML).

"The goal of NOAA's Global Drifter Program is to maintain a global array of satellite-tracked drifters, and to provide valuable climate and weather data to the forecasting and research community," said Rick Lumpkin, Ph.D., scientific director of the Global Drifter Program at AOML. "This drifter provides an excellent opportunity for children to learn more about the ocean as it tracks currents and eddies."

Student drifter events marking Earth Day are also underway this month in Boston, Maui, Mobile, Ala., Seattle, and Santa Barbara.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook , Twitter and our other social media channels.

B-Roll Footage Available: B-roll can be viewed at this YouTube link.