Final preparations of the research vessel (R/V) Knorr are underway at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for one of a series of 5 cruises during 2012 and 2013 that are part of an innovative research program called SPURS. Funded by NASA in collaboration with NSF, NOAA and also involving European participation (e.g. France, Spain), the Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS) project aims to improve our understanding of salinity processes in the upper ocean. Along with the AQUARIUS/SAC-D mission, a collaboration between NASA and the Argentinian Space Agency CONAE, SPURS will provide new insights into the Earth's global water cycle and the relationship to climate.
SPURS will employ an advanced suite of in-situ sampling technologies combined with remotely sensed salinity fields from the Aquarius/SAC-D satellite to provide a detailed characterization of salinity structure over a range of spatio-temporal scales within a 900 x 800-mile square study area centered at 25N, 38W. Coupling of data from this “sensor web” with physical oceanographic models and simulation experiments is a further distinguishing feature of SPURS aimed at both elucidating the underlying physical processes at play in this salinity maximum region of the subtropical N. Atlantic and providing tools for adaptive survey design to investigate dynamical features of interest. Situational awareness capabilities are further enhanced by the development of an Internet-based visualization system that is hosted on the project website facilitating the near real-time integration of in-situ, satellite and model observations. The project is novel in its use of online collaboration tools for researchers and emphasis on public outreach and education. The project website includes a science lesson plan section that leverages actual components of the SPURS analysis toolkit. An active cruise blog documenting science activities as they occur is also being maintained by Eric Lindstrom, the NASA Physical Oceanography Program Scientist, and an interactive cruise plan widget on the website allows the public to view the instrument deployment schedule and objectives for each phase of the cruise.