Autonomous four-dimensional mapping and tracking of a coastal upwelling front by an autonomous underwater vehicle

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Zhang, Yanwu
Bellingham, James G.
Ryan, John P.
Kieft, Brian
Stanway, Michael J.
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Coastal upwelling is a wind-driven ocean process that brings cooler, saltier, and nutrient-rich deep water upward to the surface. The boundary between the upwelling water and the normally stratified water is called the “upwelling front.” Upwelling fronts support enriched phytoplankton and zooplankton populations, thus they have great influences on ocean ecosystems. Traditional ship-based methods for detecting and sampling ocean fronts are often laborious and very difficult, and long-term tracking of such dynamic features is practically impossible. In our prior work, we developed a method of using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to autonomously detect an upwelling front and track the front's movement on a fixed latitude, and we applied the method in scientific experiments. In this paper, we present an extension of the method. Each time the AUV crosses and detects the front, the vehicle makes a turn at an oblique angle to recross the front, thus zigzagging through the front to map the frontal zone. The AUV's zigzag tracks alternate in northward and southward sweeps, so as to track the front as it moves over time. This way, the AUV maps and tracks the front in four dimensions—vertical, cross-front, along-front, and time. From May 29 to June 4, 2013, the Tethys long-range AUV ran the algorithm to map and track an upwelling front in Monterey Bay, CA, over five and one-half days. The tracking revealed spatial and temporal variabilities of the upwelling front.
© The Author(s), 2015. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Journal of Field Robotics 33 (2016): 67-81, doi:10.1002/rob.21617
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Journal of Field Robotics 33 (2016): 67-81
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