The calm before the storm

by Penny Holliday

Yesterday as we made our way northwards through the Celtic Sea we encountered weather that was slightly bumpier than Thursday – and the extra motion was enough for some of us (including me) to feel pretty queasy and tired. But as we passed into the more sheltered Irish Sea the weather has once again been calm and sunny. We have had distant views of the coast at times (with associated mobile phone signals!). Just now the sun is shining weakly through hazy clouds and we have a lovely view of Ailsa Craig as we head briefly to Ayr to collect some spare equipment via a pilot boat.

Meanwhile I am watching the weather forecast with a slight sense of disappointment – our long steam to the start of the CTD section will likely be even longer than we expected because one or two exciting-looking storms are due to arrive exactly where we planned to be in the next day or two. The EEL cruises are well known for having to juggle science plans in response to the weather, which is almost always troublesome here. We exactly cross the path of Atlantic storms as they thrash their way across the ocean, stirring the surface layer and pulling warmth from the sea into the atmosphere. This is one of the things that makes this part of the ocean so interesting, but it also can make life difficult at sea at any time of the year. Everyone who has ever been on an EEL cruise has some bad-weather stories to tell – myself included. This is my 10th cruise for this programme, and I think that of all of those, only a couple have escaped the worst of the North Atlantic weather. These coming storms mean that we will have to either go out of our way to avoid them, or else find shelter behind some islands and let them pass.

But despite the forecast, preparations are continuing for when work does start. In one of the photos here, Karen Wilson is testing a glider that we are going to deploy later in the cruise. The glider is an ocean-going robot that measures temperature and salinity as they glide up and down through the top few hundred metres of the ocean. They are fantastic devices that allows us to collect much more data than a ship could do on its own. SAMS runs several gliders in this region for the UK OSNAP and EEL programmes. You can see live streaming of data from these robots at http://velocity.sams.ac.uk/gliders and read more about them in an earlier post at
https://ukosnap.wordpress.com/2014/7/13/todays-spectator-sport-catching-bellatrix

Photos by Penny Holliday

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