New sensors aid marine study

Four high-resolution sensors to record temperature within the shallow waters of the Cayman Islands are being installed on the Central Cayman Marine Institute tower on Little Cayman this week.

Scientists from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science are teaming up with CCMI to begin to develop higher resolution understanding of how the surface layer of the ocean cools and heats, said Carrie Manfrino, CCMI’s director of research and conservation.

“Improving our models of surface heating in the ocean is especially important in areas containing coral reef systems because they are highly susceptible to intense thermal stress,” she said.

After examining preliminary data from around the Caribbean, Little Cayman was selected as the best site for this particular study.

Peter Minnett, the lead scientist from UM, said: “The particular advantages of this site are the absence of strong tidal currents, the absence of freshwater from river run-off, which can introduce an added complication through salinity variations, and the absence of turbid water, again from rivers, that can alter the way in which the solar radiation is absorbed in the water.”

“These are some of the reasons why the Little Cayman Research Centre was developed on that particular site,” said Samantha Shaxted, CCMI’s director of communications and development. “As an oceanographic observatory, Little Cayman provides an excellent control site because of the minimal inflow of sediment, nutrients, and freshwater.”

Heating and cooling cycles

Mr. Minnett explained: “The purpose of our research is to improve our understanding of the daily heating and cooling cycles of the ocean through measurements and modelling.

“This research requires very accurate measurements of the surface and temperatures at several depths between the sea surface and the corals.”

Additional testing “will allow us to refine models of the heating and cooling cycles throughout the water column between the surface and the depth of the corals,” Mr. Minett said. “An initial analysis of data from several towers has indicated that the one at the Little Cayman Research Centre is the best for our study. We are grateful for the support rendered by the Central Caribbean Marine Institute through their Little Cayman Research Centre, and by the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, Florida.

“This research is supported by NASA, and the data that is collected by these sensors will be downloaded on a monthly basis and sent back to the lab for analysis ….”

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CCMI installs temperature sensors in shallow water. – Photos: Submitted

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