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Upcoming expedition: Studying the Sea-Surface Microlayer 2

The sea surface microlayer is but a tiny slice of the ocean – only the top millimeter at most; however, this thin boundary serves as a mediator of air-sea gas exchange, controlling all transfers between the atmosphere and the ocean. It is the link between all processes that meet at the sea surface, and a huge part of marine biogeochemical cycles and air-sea interactions. Therefore, this tiny microlayer plays an influential role in regulating the entire planet’s climate. For something so small and easily overlooked, the surface microlayer is a key element in many important environmental actions.

The engineering and science team that first conducted this work on Falkor in 2016 is back to continue their study with new and improved technology This time around, they won’t be just testing the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), but expanding their capabilities, utilizing a greater science payload. This will allow the team to launch the vehicles from Falkor while in transit to better investigate surface sea slicks in real time. The work will continue to examine slicks in the Southwest Pacific near Fiji, creating a study of fine scale, transient oceanographic features that are hard to see only using satellites. The team aims to make unprecedented sea surface maps both in spatial and spectral resolution to address important questions about the ability of the ocean surface to absorb heat. Multiple cutting-edge technological tools and vehicles will be implemented simultaneously to answer these questions.

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