Better modeling, new technologies needed as the Navy looks north

Better modeling, new technologies needed as the Navy looks north

To help understand the changing environment in the Arctic and be better prepared for operation within its increasingly unpredictable climate, the Navy is working to improve its computer simulations.

The loss of summer sea ice creates more dynamic conditions in the atmosphere, waves and ocean surface. “Understanding how these things work together is the first step towards making reliable predictive models for better forecasting,” said Scott Harper, lead for the Navy’s Arctic and Global Prediction initiatives.

The second step is the development of technologies – including the use of unmanned and autonomous vehicles and the collection of remote sensing data – that will provide long-term monitoring and improve models.  “We need to build the operational data set,” Harper noted, “not only for the science that we need to do, but also to provide real-time awareness to operational forces.”

Improved understanding and enhanced data collection support the third goal: the development of computer models that include the influence of the ocean, atmosphere, ice and waves.

“The goal is to build system models that operate in high resolution, capture important Arctic processes and assimilate all this data,” Harper said, “and then run these models out to the future to predict not only what will happen in the next few days, but to also provide seasonal guidance as well as looking out multi-year to decades to figure out how fast the ice will continue to diminish.”

Specific modeling initiatives are already underway, according to Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Mat Winter.  One program of observations and simulations focuses on the marginal ice zone (MIZ), the transition area between sea ice and the open ocean; another works to provide better physics for computer modeling of waves in the MIZ.

ONR previously worked with other nations to place sensors into Arctic waters to provide new tools to help the Navy predict conditions for operating in once-inaccessible waters.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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