Scientists descend on Sable Island for massive fog study

On Sable Island, Nova Scotia, scientists can be found among horses, seals and seabirds this summer.

The island is home to an international study aimed at improving the prediction of sea fog, one of the greatest challenges in meteorology.

“We’ve been planning this for almost two years and now hundreds of instruments are being deployed. Some of them are already sending us data,” project manager Joe Fernando of Notre Dame University said in a statement. Edge of the Dunes interview with CBC News.

Location, location, location

It is no coincidence that Sable Island was chosen as the site for this field investigation. A climate study determined it to be the foggiest place on earth during the summer, Fernando said.

“It’s quite an expensive place to work because of the logistical requirements. But it’s the most scientifically promising place to study sea fog,” Fernando told CBC News.

A climate study determined Sable Island to be the foggiest place on earth during the summer. (Robert Short/CBC)

The crescent of sand 300 kilometers off Halifax lies at the intersection of major Atlantic forces: where the warm Gulf Stream meets the cold Labrador Stream and near the break in the continental shelf where turbulence ocean raises tiny salt particles that create fog when water droplets form on them.

The interaction of all the atmospheric and oceanic processes involved is not fully understood – one of the reasons why fog can only be predicted hours in advance, if at all.

“Because fog is such a difficult problem involving all of these processes coming together, you have to probe each of the causal factors and then piece the story together,” Fernando said.

The Sable Island Deployment

To try to better understand its properties, they erected towers with instruments to measure thermal and solar radiation, installed optical sensors and equipment that, for the first time, can measure drizzle droplets, courtesy of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Drones and weather balloons will also be deployed.

The United States Office of Naval Research is funding the two-year, US$7.5 million project, which has its own acronym: FATIMA, for Fog and Turbulence Interactions in the Marine Atmosphere.

The data is not classified.

Dozens of scientists involved

The FATIMA project brought together dozens of scientists from multiple institutions and disciplines.

One is Qing Wang, a professor in the Department of Meteorology at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.

On Sable, she tries to measure the fog as it passes between optical sensors. She wants to know why it’s so hard to see through the fog. “We need to start from the basics to understand what really affects optical propagation and how it relates to general weather patterns, fog characteristics,” she said in an interview on the western end of the island.

Applications of his research include civil aviation, high-energy laser weapons used by the military, and free-space optical communication – the wireless transmission of data through the air using light.

After 25 years of reporting on Sable Island, Paul Withers can finally leave

Paul Withers can finally cross off visiting Sable Island from his to-do list. But it wasn’t exactly the easiest shoot he’s ever been on.

The instruments were surrounded by temporary fencing, under the direction of Parks Canada, which manages the island.

“When the team developed the research study, they consulted with Parks Canada staff to ensure it was both logistically and ecologically feasible,” said Jennifer Nicholson, of Parks Canada. .

“We have 569 horses on this island, so the fencing is primarily there not only to protect the instruments and valuable equipment that the team brought to the island, but also for the safety and protection of the horses.”

The ship’s expedition leaves Halifax on Friday

In addition to the Sable field study, the FATIMA study chartered the Irving-owned supply vessel Atlantic Condor at a cost of $1.9 million.

This week, the ship was transformed into a floating laboratory. He leaves Halifax for a month-long mission from Sable Island to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland on Friday.

Ed Creegan is the chief scientist aboard the Atlantic Condor which has been transformed into a floating laboratory. (Paul Withers/CBC)

Between 25 and 30 instruments were mounted above deck to obtain clean samples free of ship emissions and distortions caused by the shape of the ship, which alters the airflow.

They include aerosol monitors from Dalhousie University in Halifax.

The ship will also deploy ocean gliders, balloons and monitors to measure conditions above and below the surface.

“It’s quite ambitious,” said Ed Creegan, chief scientist on board.

“This is a large-scale campaign from the ship’s perspective in particular, because we’re so heavily instrumenting the atmospheric measurements, we’re so heavily instrumenting the aerosol measurements, which really hasn’t been done. on a ship-to-everything based platform,” he said.

Next year, the FATIMA project will move to the Yellow Sea off Korea.

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