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MoD to release submarine data to climate scientists

The Ministry of Defence will de-classify submarine data and hand it over to researchers working on climate change in the Arctic, the department announced on 22 February.

The data, previously unavailable to researchers, will be provided to the Natural Environment Research Council’s National Oceanography Centre, based at the University of Southampton.

The MoD says that Royal Navy vessels, including submarines, routinely collect environmental data such as salt content and water temperature.

Therefore, a dataset from a UK submarine mission will be released as it can “provide a snapshot of conditions under the ice and shed light on the changes taking place in the Arctic,” says an MoD statement. It adds that more data could be released in the future.

The data has been prepared by the MoD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, which has consulted researchers on their need for specific information and assessed what data would be appropriate for release.

“It’s really important to have this information as it will enable us to clearly measure the changes which have occurred in recent years, which is paramount for the accuracy, wider impact and legacy of global environmental science research,” said NOC researcher John Allen in a statement.

Speaking to BBC news, Allen added that the precise positions where data was recorded would remain classified but that if measurements were given “generic classifications” they could be used for study.

“If you look at a trace of temperature, you can see it wobbling around. But within that there will be particular length scales at which it wobbles,” he told the BBC. “What we can do is to look at whether that changes depending on whether you are under ice or under open water.”

The project is called the Submarine Estimates of Arctic Turbulence Spectra and is funded through NERC’s Arctic Research Programme.

“The MOD is excited by this project since it puts UK researchers at the forefront of climate change science. Any progress will, ultimately, lead to an improved oceanographic product for Royal Navy operations,” said Tim Clarke, a marine scientist at the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in a statement.