Surveying Volcanic Impacts in the Tyrrhenian Sea

As part of the Atlantic to Mediterranean mission, two saildrones studied CO2 air-sea fluxes due to volcanic activity in the vicinity of the Aeolian Islands.

A view of Stromboli, one of the seven Aeolian Islands and an active volcano.

The Aeolian Islands, named for Aeolus, the demi-god of wind in mythology, is a group of seven islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea just north of Sicily, two of which—Stromboli and Vulcano—are active volcanoes. Due to volcanic activity, there are many natural CO2 seeps in the area. The Istituto Nazionale di Oceanografia e di Geofisica Sperimentale (OGS) has completed small-scale surveys of CO2 in the water column measuring partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) and acidity (pH) in the water column but had no data of surface measurements. As part of the ongoing Atlantic to Mediterranean (ATL2MED) mission, two saildrones have collected data about potential CO2 emissions to estimate CO2 air-sea exchanges as they sailed by the eastern shores of the Aeolian Islands.

The ATL2MED mission is led by the European Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS). This multi-stakeholder project is a collaboration between Saildrone and more than two dozen oceanographic research institutions from seven countries to address a variety of scientific objectives. OGS is a multidisciplinary earth science institute that focuses on basic and applied research in the fields of oceanography, geophysics, and marine geology. On a national and international level, OGS promotes and implements scientific and technological research with the aid of oceanographic research vessels as well as other innovative infrastructures.

Saildrone is working with OGS to achieve several mission objectives in the Tyrrhenian, Ionian, and Adriatic Seas, including the validation of carbon measurements at fixed-point observatories, studying mesoscale biogeochemical variability between fixed stations, and validating Saildrone’s unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) as an integrative component of ocean observing systems. After completing the Nice-Calvi Line Inter-Comparison sub-mission with the Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche-sur-Mer (LOV), the saildrones collected data for cross-calibration at the W1M3A ocean station in the Ligurian Sea before transiting to the Tyrrhenian Sea off the west coast of Italy where they continued to study air-sea carbon fluxes near fixed-point observatories and biogeochemical variability between fixed stations. 

“The research is on-going on Panarea Island where the ECCSEL (European Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Laboratory Infrastructure) NatLab-Italy laboratory has been operating since 2015. Thanks to the IPANEMA project, supported by the Italian Ministry of Education, University, and Research, further implementation of instrumentations will contribute to studying this area, which can be considered a natural laboratory for the effect of acidification and for the methods of investigation of gas leakages from CO2 sub-seabed storage,” said Dr. Michele Giani, a marine biogeochemistry and ecosystem researcher at OGS.

OGS will assimilate the data collected with other research on the CO2 system obtained in the area at ECCSEL – NatLab-Italy. ATL2MED mission data is also being distributed via the European Union’s EMODnet data portal.

The two saildrones have rounded Sicily and are now making their way across the Ionian Sea, through the Strait of Otranto, and into the Adriatic Sea for the final stages of the ATL2MED mission—a comparison with the E2M3A ocean station, a glider comparison between Italy and Croatia, and comparisons with the MIRAMARE and PALOMA ocean stations—before arriving in Trieste.


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