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NASA Is Tackling Climate Change By Strapping Equipment To Seals' Heads

NASA Is Tackling Climate Change By Strapping Equipment To Seals' Heads

NASA is currently experimenting with a fairly radical way to measure the effects of climate change. They're - wait for it - strapping metallic headgear to seals.

Not only is that super cute, a happy side effect of this project is that it is also really useful for researching deep sea currents that can provide a fascinating insight into the state of the earth's climate.

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So, they've roped in a few blubbery assistants to help them out with that.

The benefits are manifold; not only does it save on expensive equipment like deep sea drones or hi-tech underwater cameras and submarines, it also gives them a seal's-eye - well, seal's noggin - view of life at the antipodes of our planet.

Some elephant seal scientists, enjoying a bit of downtime. Credit: PA
Some elephant seal scientists, enjoying a bit of downtime. Credit: PA

Sticking their unwitting animal helpers with a relatively cost effective computerised hat, they've been keeping tabs on the habits of the seals within the currents they're studying.

The seals themselves often dive down even further than whales in their pursuit of the fish and squid that they eat.

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In fact, southern elephant seals, which are being used by the US Space Agency and their associated scientists, have been known to dive as deep as 7,000 feet down.

So, if your aim is to get a decent idea of what is happening in the intensely cold waters of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which is responsible for regulating temperature across the whole of the southern hemisphere, the best way to go about it is to capture a seal.

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That's exactly what they did.

This seal seems fairly happy about it. Credit: Sorbonne University
This seal seems fairly happy about it. Credit: Sorbonne University

That meant that while the researchers were snug and warm on land, the female seal was whizzing around under the waters wearing a metal hat fitted with all the equipment to gather the necessary data.

They also tracked her movements with a satellite.

Three thousand miles later, she'd helped map nearly the entire current, and the researchers had some vital new information to work with.

One of the visiting grad students working at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Lia Siegelman, said: "I hope this will encourage physicists and biologists to use those very rich data from seals."

She added that the seal experiment had changed the team's understanding about what's going on with our deep sea temperature.

Science has never been so adorable. Credit: PA
Science has never been so adorable. Credit: PA

Siegelman continued: "Most current modelling studies indicate that the heat would move from the surface to the ocean interior in these cases, but with the new observational data provided by the seal, we found that that's not the case.

"This could be an important implication for our climate and the ocean's role in offsetting the effects of global warming by absorbing most of the heat."

Well, if it's important work, then it's got our seal of approval.

Featured Image Credit: Sorbonne University

Topics: Science, World News, Weird, Animals

Tom Wood

Tom Wood is a LADbible journalist and Twin Peaks enthusiast. Despite having a career in football cut short by a chronic lack of talent, he managed to obtain degrees from both the University of London and Salford. According to his French teacher, at the weekends he mostly likes to play football and go to the park with his brother. Contact Tom on [email protected]