Science Publications

The impact and quality of Saildrone’s data has been featured in numerous scientific papers. Saildrone has demonstrated the highest possible levels of data quality, which has established scientific confidence in our measurements and sampling protocols. You can review some of the science publications below.

Autonomous Wintertime Observations of Air-Sea Exchange in the Gulf Stream Reveal a Perfect Storm for Ocean CO2 Uptake

A scarcity of wintertime observations of surface ocean carbon dioxide partial pressure (pCO2) in and near the Gulf Stream creates uncertainty in the magnitude of the regional carbon sink and its controlling mechanisms. Recent observations from an Uncrewed Surface Vehicle (USV), outfitted with a payload to measure surface ocean and lower atmosphere pCO2, revealed sharp gradients in ocean pCO2 across the Gulf Stream. Surface ocean pCO2 was lower by ∼50 μatm relative to the atmosphere in the subtropical mode water (STMW) formation region. This undersaturation combined with strong wintertime winds allowed for rapid ocean uptake of CO2, averaging −11.5 mmol m−2 day−1 during the February 2019 USV mission. The unique timing of this mission revealed active STMW formation. The USV proved to be a useful tool for CO2 flux quantification in the poorly observed, dynamic western boundary current environment.

Nickford, S., Palter, J. B., Donohue, K., Fassbender, A. J., Gray, A. R., Long, J., et al. (2022). Autonomous wintertime observations of air-sea exchange in the Gulf Stream reveal a perfect storm for ocean CO2 uptake. Geophysical Research Letters, 49, e2021GL096805.

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Comparison of GHRSST SST Analysis in the Arctic Ocean and Alaskan Coastal Waters Using Saildrones

There is high demand for complete satellite SST maps (or L4 SST analyses) of the Arctic regions to monitor the rapid environmental changes occurring at high latitudes. Although there are a plethora of L4 SST products to choose from, satellite-based products evolve constantly with the advent of new satellites and frequent changes in SST algorithms, with the intent of improving absolute accuracies. The constant change of these products, as reflected by the version product, make it necessary to do periodic validations against in situ data. Eight of these L4 products are compared here against saildrone data from two 2019 campaigns in the western Arctic, as part of the MISST project. The accuracy of the different products is estimated using different statistical methods, from standard and robust statistics to Taylor diagrams. Results are also examined in terms of spatial scales of variability using auto- and cross-spectral analysis. The three products with the best performance, at this point and time, are used in a case study of the thermal features of the Yukon–Kuskokwim delta. The statistical analyses show that two L4 SST products had consistently better relative accuracy when compared to the saildrone subsurface temperatures. Those are the NOAA/NCEI DOISST and the RSS MWOI SSTs. In terms of the spectral variance and feature resolution, the UK Met Office OSTIA product appears to outperform all others at reproducing the fine scale features, especially in areas of high spatial variability, such as the Alaska coast. It is known that L4 analyses generate small-scale features that get smoothed out as the SSTs are interpolated onto spatially complete grids. However, when the high-resolution satellite coverage is sparse, which is the case in the Arctic regions, the analyses tend to produce more spurious small-scale features. The analyses here indicate that the high-resolution coverage, attainable with current satellite infrared technology, is too sparse, due to cloud cover to support very high resolution L4 SST products in high latitudinal regions. Only for grid resolutions of ~9–10 km or greater does the smoothing of the gridding process balance out the small-scale noise resulting from the lack of high-resolution infrared data. This scale, incidentally, agrees with the Rossby deformation radius in the Arctic Ocean (~10 km).

Vazquez-Cuervo, Jorge, Sandra L. Castro, Michael Steele, Chelle Gentemann, Jose Gomez-Valdes, and Wenqing Tang. 2022. "Comparison of GHRSST SST Analysis in the Arctic Ocean and Alaskan Coastal Waters Using Saildrones" Remote Sensing 14, no. 3: 692.

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Uncrewed Ocean Gliders and Saildrones Support Hurricane Forecasting and Research

In the United States alone, hurricanes have been responsible for thousands of deaths and over US$1 trillion in damages since 1980 ( These impacts are significantly greater globally, particularly in regions with limited hurricane early warning systems and where large portions of the population live at or near sea level. The high socioeconomic impacts of tropical cyclones will increase with a changing climate, rising sea level, and increasing coastal populations. To mitigate these impacts, efforts are underway to improve hurricane track and intensity forecasts, which drive storm surge models and evacuation orders and guide coastal preparations. Hurricane track forecasts have improved steadily over past decades, while intensity forecasts have lagged until recently (Cangialosi et al., 2020). Hurricane intensity changes are influenced by a combination of large-scale atmospheric circulation, internal storm dynamics, and air-sea interactions (Wadler et al., 2021, and references therein). Components of the sustained ocean observing system (e.g., profiling floats, expendable bathythermographs, drifters, moorings) are useful for understanding the role of the ocean in hurricane intensity changes. However, gaps in the ocean observing system, particularly collection of data near the air-sea interface and in coastal regions, boundary currents (e.g., the Gulf Stream, Kuroshio, among others), and areas with complex currents and seafloor topography (e.g., the Caribbean Sea), have led to difficulties in accurately representing upper ocean features and processes in numerical ocean models. Employment of uncrewed ocean observing platforms has begun to fill these gaps by offering rapid relocation and adaptive sampling of regions and ocean features of interest. These platforms include autonomous underwater gliders (Figure 1; Testor et al., 2019) and surface vehicles (Meinig et al., 2019). Uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs), such as saildrones and wave gliders, are systems designed for data collection in hazardous conditions. Data collected by these platforms have improved our understanding of upper ocean temperature and salinity stratification and mixing processes and are becoming critical in improving operational ocean and coupled air-sea hurricane forecast models (Domingues et al., 2021). This paper provides a broad overview of the ongoing US hurricane glider project and details of a new effort with the Saildrone USV during the 2021 hurricane season. While this article focuses on the US East Coast, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea, similar efforts are underway in Korea, the Philippines, Japan, and China, among other countries.

Miles, T.N., D. Zhang, G.R. Foltz, J. Zhang, C. Meinig, F. Bringas, J. Triñanes, M. Le Hénaff, M.F. Aristizabal Vargas, S. Coakley, C.R. Edwards, D. Gong, R.E. Todd, M.J. Oliver, W.D. Wilson, K. Whilden, B. Kirkpatrick, P. Chardon-Maldonado, J.M. Morell, D. Hernandez, G. Kuska, C.D. Stienbarger, K. Bailey, C. Zhang, S.M. Glenn, and G.J. Goni. 2021. Uncrewed ocean gliders and saildrones support hurricane forecasting and research. Pp. 78–81 in Frontiers in Ocean Observing: Documenting Ecosystems, Understanding Environmental Changes, Forecasting Hazards. E.S. Kappel, S.K. Juniper, S. Seeyave, E. Smith, and M. Visbeck, eds, A Supplement to Oceanography 34(4),

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Uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) survey of walleye pollock, Gadus chalcogrammus, in response to the cancellation of ship-based surveys

In 2020, the developing COVID-19 pandemic disrupted fisheries surveys to an unprecedented extent. Many surveys were cancelled, including those for walleye pollock (Gadus chalcogrammus) in the eastern Bering Sea (EBS), the largest fishery in the United States. To partially mitigate the loss of survey information, we deployed three uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) equipped with echosounders to extend the ship-based acoustic-trawl time series of pollock abundance. Trawling was not possible from USVs, so an empirical relationship between pollock backscatter and biomass established from previous surveys was developed to convert USV backscatter observations into pollock abundance. The EBS is well suited for this approach since pollock dominate midwater fishes in the survey area. Acoustic data from the USVs were combined with historical surveys to provide a consistent fishery-independent index in 2020. This application demonstrates the unique capabilities of USVs and how they could be rapidly deployed to collect information on pollock abundance and distribution when a ship-based survey was not feasible. We note the limitations of this approach (e.g. higher uncertainty relative to previous ship-based surveys), but found the USV survey to be useful in informing the stock assessment in a situation where ship-based surveys were not possible.

Alex De Robertis, Mike Levine, Nathan Lauffenburger, Taina Honkalehto, James Ianelli, Cole C Monnahan, Rick Towler, Darin Jones, Sarah Stienessen, Denise McKelvey, Uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) survey of walleye pollock, Gadus chalcogrammus, in response to the cancellation of ship-based surveys, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 2021.

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Spatiotemporal Dynamics in the Acoustic Backscatter of Plankton and Lesser Sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) in the North Sea Measured Using a Saildrone

With accelerating global warming and human activities, the North Sea is one of the marine ecosystems undergoing rapid change. The need for spatially-temporally extendable survey platforms for assisting well-established vessel-based surveys are increasing. In this thesis, short-term variation in spatial structure of plankton and lesser sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) were investigated in the North Sea by using unmanned surface vehicle (USVs) Saildrones equipped with dual-frequency (38, 200 kHz) echo sounder. The data was collected in two areas, a part of the standard Aberdeen-Hanstholm transect and English Klondyke, an important sandeel fishing ground. These areas were repeatedly covered by two Saildrones in May-June 2019. Repeated surveys witnessed high plankton density in the western part of the Aberdeen-Hanstholm transect constantly during the survey period. Salinity seemed to be one possible factor explaining the heterogeneity of plankton density in both vertical and horizontal structure. Sandeel appeared diurnally at various depths from 2 m to near the sea bottom. There was only a weak tendency that the schools were distributed deeper around midday. However, their diverse vertical distribution indicated underlying drivers of their behavior other than light. Despite the existing uncertainty of species identification due to lack of ground-truthing and limited frequency availability, this saildrone survey conveyed little but purposeful information of the dynamics in spatial utilization of plankton and sandeel over a short period of time.

Komiyama, Sakura. "Spatiotemporal Dynamics in the Acoustic Backscatter of Plankton and Lesser Sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) in the North Sea Measured Using a Saildrone." Master's thesis, University of Bergen, 2021. Bergen Open Research Archive,

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