Unlocking the Secrets of Ocean Dynamics: Insights from ALMA

Florent Le Courtois – florent.lecourtois@gmail.com

DGA Tn, Toulon, Var, 83000, France

Samuel Pinson, École Navale, Rue du Poulmic, 29160 Lanvéoc, France
Victor Quilfen, Shom, 13 Rue de Châtellier, 29200 Brest, France
Gaultier Real, CMRE, Viale S. Bartolomeo, 400, 19126 La Spezia, Italy
Dominique Fattaccioli, DGA Tn, Avenue de la Tour Royale, 83000 Toulon, France

Popular version of 4aUW7 – The Acoustic Laboratory for Marine Applications (ALMA) applied to fluctuating environment analysis
Presented at the 186th ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at https://eppro02.ativ.me/web/index.php?page=IntHtml&project=ASASPRING24&id=3673397

–The research described in this Acoustics Lay Language Paper may not have yet been peer reviewed–

Ocean dynamics happen at various spatial and temporal scales. They cause the displacement and the mixing of water bodies of different temperatures. Acoustic propagation is strongly impacted by these fluctuations as sound speed depends mainly on the underwater temperature. Monitoring underwater acoustic propagation and its fluctuations remains a scientific challenge, especially at mid-frequency (typically the order of 1 to 10 kHz). Dedicated measurement campaigns have to be conducted to increase the understanding of the fluctuations, their impacts on the acoustic propagation and thus to develop appropriate localization processing.

The Acoustic Laboratory for Marine Application (ALMA) has been proposed by the French MOD Procurement Agency (DGA) to conduct research for passive and active sonar since 2014, in support of future sonar array design and processing. Since its inception in 2014, ALMA has undergone remarkable transformations, evolving from a modest array of hydrophones to a sophisticated system equipped with 192 hydrophones and advanced technology. With each upgrade, ALMA’s capabilities have expanded, allowing us to delve deeper into the secrets of the sea.


Figure 1. Evolution of the ALMA array configuration, from 2014 to 2020. Real and Fattacioli, 2018

Bulletin of sea temperature to understand the acoustic propagation
The campaign of 2016 took place Nov 7 – 17, 2016, off the Western Coast of Corsica in the Mediterranean Sea, located by the blue dot in Fig.2 (around 42.4 °N and 9.5 °E). We analyzed signals from a controlled acoustic source and temperature recording, corresponding approximately to 14 hours of data.

Figure 2. Map of surface temperature during the campaign. Heavy rains of previous days caused a vortex in the north of Corsica. Pinson et. al, 2022

The map of sea temperature during the campaign was computed. It is similar to a weather bulletin for the sea. From previous days, heavy rains caused a global cooling over the areas. A vortex appeared in the Ligurian Sea between Italy and the North of Corsica. Then the cold waters traveled Southward along Corsica Western coast to reach the measurement area. The water cooling was measured as well on the thermometers. The main objective was to understand the changes in the echo pattern in relation to the temperature change. Echos can characterize the acoustic paths. We are mainly interested in the amplitude, the time of travel and the angle of arrival of echoes to describe the acoustic path between the source and ALMA array.

All echoes extracted by processing ALMA data are plotted as dots in 3D. They depend on the time of the campaign, the angle of arrival and the time of flight. The loudness of the echo is indicated by the colorscale. The 3D image is sliced in Fig. 3 a), b) and c) for better readability. The directions of the last reflection are estimated in Fig. 3 a): positive angles come from the surface reflection while negative angles come from seabed reflection. The global cooling of the waters caused a slowly increasing fluctuation of the time of flight between the source and the array in Fig. 3 b). A surprising result was a group of spooky arrivals, who appeared briefly during the campaign at an angle close to 0 ° during 3 and 12 AM in Fig. 3 b) and c).

All the echoes detected by processing the acoustic data. Pinson et. al, 2022

Figure 3. Evolution of the acoustic paths during the campaign. Each path is a dot defined by the time of flight and the angle of arrival during the period of the campaign. Pinson et. al, 2022

The acoustic paths were computed using the bulletin of sea temperature. A more focused map of the depth of separation between cold and warm waters, also called mixing layer depths (MLD), is plotted in Fig 4. We noticed that, when the mixing layer depth is below the depth of the source, the cooling causes acoustic paths to be trapped by bathymetry in the lower part of the water column. It explains the apparition of the spooky echoes. Trapped paths are plotted in the blue line while regular paths are plotted in black in Fig. 5.

Figure 4. Evolution of the depth of separation between cold and warm water during the campaign. Pinson et. al, 2022

Figure 5. Example of acoustic paths in the area: black lines indicate regular propagation of the sound; blue lines indicate the trapped paths of the spooky echoes. Pinson et. al, 2022

The ALMA system and the associated tools allowed illustrating practical ocean acoustics phenomena. ALMA has been deployed during 5 campaigns, representing 50 days at sea, mostly in the Western Mediterranean Sea, but also in the Atlantic to tackle other complex physical problems.

Moving Cargo, Keeping Whales: Investigating Solutions for Ship Noise Pollution

Vanessa ZoBell – vmzobell@ucsd.edu
Instagram: @vanessa__zobell

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, 92037, United States

John A. Hildebrand, Kaitlin E. Frasier
UCSD – Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Twitter & Instagram: @scripps_mbarc
Twitter & Instagram: @scripps_ocean

Popular version of 2pAB8 – Moving Cargo, Keeping Whales: Investigating Solutions for Ocean Noise Pollution
Presented at the 186th ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at https://eppro02.ativ.me/web/index.php?page=IntHtml&project=ASASPRING24&id=3678721

–The research described in this Acoustics Lay Language Paper may not have yet been peer reviewed–

Ship Noise Figure 1. Image Courtesy of ZoBell, Vanessa M., John A. Hildebrand, and Kaitlin E. Frasier. “Comparing pre-industrial and modern ocean noise levels in the Santa Barbara Channel.” Marine Pollution Bulletin 202 (2024): 116379.

Southern California waters are lit up with noise pollution (Figure 1). The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach are the first and second busiest shipping ports in the western hemisphere, supporting transits from large container ships that radiated noise throughout the region. Underwater noise generated by these vessels dominate ocean soundscapes, negatively affecting marine organisms, like mammals, fish, and invertebrates, who rely on sound for daily life functions. In this project, we modeled what the ocean would sound like without human activity and compared it with what it sounds like in modern day. We found in this region, which encompasses the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and feeding grounds of the endangered northeastern Pacific blue whale, modern ocean noise levels were up to 15 dB higher than pre-industrial levels. This would be like having a picnic in a meadow versus having a picnic on an airport tarmac.

Reducing ship noise in critical habitats has become an international priority for protecting marine organisms. A variety of noise reduction techniques have been discussed, with some already operationalized. To understand the effectiveness of these techniques, broad stakeholder engagement, robust funding, and advanced signal processing is required. We modeled a variety of noise reduction simulations and identified effective strategies to quiet whale habitats in the Santa Barbara Channel region. Simulating conservation scenarios will allow more techniques to be explored without having to be implemented, saving time, money, and resources in the pursuit of protecting the ocean.

What fish species are singing along the southern Australian continental shelf?

Lauren Amy Hawkins – laurenhawkins799@gmail.com

Centre for Marine Science and Technology, Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia, 6102, Australia

Benjamin Saunders
School of Molecular and Life Sciences
Curtin University
Bentley, Western Australia, Australia

Christine Erbe, Iain Parnum, Chong Wei, and Robert McCauley
Centre for Marine Science and Technology
Curtin University
Bentley, Western Australia, Australia

Popular version of 5aAB6 – The search to identify the fish species chorusing along the southern Australian continental shelf
Presented at the 185 ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0023649

Please keep in mind that the research described in this Lay Language Paper may not have yet been peer reviewed.

Unknown fish species are singing in large aggregations along almost the entire southern Australian continental shelf on a daily basis, yet we still have little idea of what species these fish are or what this means to them. These singing aggregations are known as fish choruses, they occur when many individuals call continuously for a prolonged period, producing a cacophony of sound that can be detected kilometres away. It is difficult to identify fish species that chorus in offshore marine environments. The current scientific understanding of the sound-producing abilities of all fish species is limited and offshore marine environments are challenging to access. This project aimed to undertake a pilot study which attempted to identify the source species of three fish chorus types (shown below) detected along the southern Australian continental shelf off Bremer Bay in Western Australia from previously collected acoustic recordings.

Each fish chorus type occurred over the hours of sunset, dominating the soundscape within unique frequency bands. Have a listen to the audio file below to get a feeling for how noisy the waters off Bremer Bay become as the sun goes down and the fish start singing. The activity of each fish chorus type changed over time, indicating seasonality in presence and intensity. Chorus I and II demonstrated a peak in calling presence and intensity over late winter to early summer, while Chorus III demonstrated peak calling over late winter to late spring. This informed the sampling methodology of the pilot study, and in December 2019, underwater acoustic recorders and unbaited video recorders were deployed simultaneously on the seafloor along the continental shelf off Bremer Bay to attempt to collect evidence of any large aggregations of fish species present during the production of the fish choruses. Chorus I and the start of Chorus II were detected on the acoustic recordings, corresponding with video recordings of large aggregations of Red Snapper (Centroberyx gerrardi) and Deep Sea Perch (Nemadactylus macropterus). A spectrogram of the acoustic recordings and snapshots from the corresponding underwater video recordings are shown below.

Click here to play audio

The presence of large aggregations of Red Snapper present while Chorus I was also present was of particular interest to the authors. Previous dissections of this species had revealed that Red Snapper possessed anatomical features that could support sound production through the vibration of their swimbladder using specialised muscles. To explore this further, computerized tomography (CT) scans of several Red Snapper specimens were undertaken. We are currently undertaking 3D modelling of the sound-producing mechanisms of this species to compute the resonance frequency of the fish to better understand if this species could be producing Chorus I.

Listening to fish choruses can tell us about where these fish live, what habitats they use, their spawning behaviour, their feeding behaviour, can indicate their biodiversity, and in certain circumstances, can determine the local abundance of a fish population. For this information to be applied to marine spatial planning and fish species management, it is necessary to identify which fish species are producing these choruses. This pilot study was the first step in an attempt to develop an effective methodology that could be used to address the challenging task of identifying the source species of fish choruses present in offshore environments. We recommend that future studies take an integrated approach to species identification, including the use of arrays of hydrophones paired with underwater video recorders.

Turning Up Ocean Temperature & Volume – Underwater Soundscapes in a Changing Climate

Freeman Lauren – lauren.a.freeman3.civ@us.navy.mil

Instagram: @laur.freeman

NUWC Division Newport, NAVSEA, Newport, RI, 02841, United States

Dr. Lauren A. Freeman, Dr. Daniel Duane, Dr. Ian Rooney from NUWC Division Newport and
Dr. Simon E. Freeman from ARPA-E

Popular version of 1aAB1 – Passive Acoustic Monitoring of Biological Soundscapes in a Changing Climate
Presented at the 184 ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0018023

Climate change is impacting our oceans and marine ecosystems across the globe. Passive acoustic monitoring of marine ecosystems has been shown to provide a window into the heartbeat of an ecosystem, its relative health, and even information such as how many whales or fish are present in a given day or month. By studying marine soundscapes, we collate all of the ambient noise at an underwater location and attribute parts of the soundscape to wind and waves, to boats, and to different types of biology. Long term biological soundscape studies allow us to track changes in ecosystems with a single, small, instrument called a hydrophone. I’ve been studying coral reef soundscapes for nearly a decade now, and am starting to have time series long enough to begin to see how climate change affects soundscapes. Some of the most immediate and pronounced impacts of climate change on shallow ocean soundscapes are evident in varying levels of ambient biological sound. We found a ubiquitous trend at research sites in both the tropical Pacific (Hawaii) and sub-tropical Atlantic (Bermuda) that warmer water tends to be associated with higher ambient noise levels. Different frequency bands provide information about different ecological processes (such as fish calls, invertebrate activity, and algal photosynthesis). The response of each of these processes to temperature changes is not uniform, however each type of ambient noise increases in warmer water. At some point, ocean warming and acidification will fundamentally change the ecological structure of a shallow water environment. This would also be reflected in a fundamentally different soundscape, as described by peak frequencies and sound intensity. While I have not monitored the phase shift of an ecosystem at a single site, I have documented and shown that healthy coral reefs with high levels of parrotfish and reef fish have fundamentally different soundscapes, as reflected in their acoustic signature at different frequency bands, than coral reefs that are degraded and overgrown with fleshy macroalgae. This suggests that long term soundscape monitoring could also track these ecological phase shifts under climate stress and other impacts to marine ecosystems such as overfishing.

A healthy coral reef research site in Hawaii with vibrant corals, many reef fish, and copious nooks and crannies for marine invertebrates to make their homes.
Soundscape segmented into three frequency bands capturing fish vocalizations (blue), parrotfish scrapes (red), and invertebrate clicks along with algal photosynthesis bubbles (yellow). All features show an increase in ambient noise level (PSD, y-axis) with increasing ocean temperature at each site studied in Hawaii.

Fish & Shrimp & Seals, Oh My! Soundscapes of Hawaiian monk seal habitats are dominated by biophony

Kirby Parnell – keparnel@hawaii.edu

Marine Mammal Research Program, University of Hawaii Manoa, Kaneohe, HI, 96744, United States

Karlina Merkens
Aude Pacini – twitter: @audepacini
Lars Bejder – twitter: @lbejder, @MMRP_UH

Popular version of 5aUW-Underwater soundscapes at critical habitats of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, presented at the 183rd ASA Meeting.

The ocean is a noisy place. From chatty marine mammals to territorial fish and hungry shrimp, marine animals use sound to communicate, navigate, defend territories, and find food, mates, and safe spaces to settle down. However, human activities are negatively impacting the abilities of marine animals to effectively use sound for critical life functions. For the endangered Hawaiian monk seal with a population size of approximately 1,570 seals, we’re finding that vocal communication (Audio File 1) may play an important role for reproduction, yet we lack a foundational knowledge of the seals’ acoustic environment, better known as a soundscape. In this study, we found that biological sounds produced by snapping shrimp, fish, and seals dominate and shape the underwater soundscapes at critical habitats of the Hawaiian monk seal, with little input from man-made sources (Figure 1).

Figure 1 | A) Spectrogram of a 24-hour period on 11 May 2021 at Lehua Rock. A spectrogram is a visual representation of a sound where the x-axis is time, the y-axis is frequency (or pitch), and the color represents the amplitude of the sound (how loud or soft the sound is). The black icons indicate the source of the sound: snapping shrimp, boat, scuba divers, humpback whale song, Hawaiian monk seal vocalizations, and the vertical migration of the deep scattering layer. B) Spectrogram showing overlapping Hawaiian monk seal vocalizations from 0-1 kHz and humpback whale song from 0.5-5 kHz (listen to this in Audio File.

Figure 1 | A) Spectrogram of a 24-hour period on 11 May 2021 at Lehua Rock. A spectrogram is a visual representation of a sound where the x-axis is time, the y-axis is frequency (or pitch), and the color represents the amplitude of the sound (how loud or soft the sound is). The black icons indicate the source of the sound: snapping shrimp, boat, scuba divers, humpback whale song, Hawaiian monk seal vocalizations, and the vertical migration of the deep scattering layer. B) Spectrogram showing overlapping Hawaiian monk seal vocalizations from 0-1 kHz and humpback whale song from 0.5-5 kHz (listen to this in Audio File 1).

We sought to describe the underwater soundscape, or the acoustic environment, at locations that Hawaiian monk seals utilize for foraging, breeding, communication, and other critical life functions. We wanted to know 1) how loud are ambient (background) sound levels, 2) are sound sources biological, geophysical, or manmade, 3) how do sound sources and levels change throughout the day, and 4) how does the soundscape compare between the more-densely human-populated main Hawaiian Islands and the remote Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. To do this, we deployed passive acoustic recorders, known as SoundTraps, at four critical habitats of the Hawaiian monk seal: Rabbit Island, Oahu; Lehua Rock, Niʻihau; French Frigate Shoals; and Pearl and Hermes Reef. The SoundTraps recorded sounds from 20 Hz up to 24 kHz – this includes low-frequency sounds like earthquakes to high-frequency sounds like dolphin echolocation.

Our results indicate that sound levels are generally loud at these nearshore reef environments thanks to the persistent crackling sounds of snapping shrimp, low-frequency vocalizations of monk seals, and a variety of fish sounds. With little input from manmade sound sources, except at the popular scuba diving site Lehua Rock, we suspect that the elevated sound levels are indicative of healthy reef environments. This is good news for Hawaiian monk seals – less manmade noise means less acoustic masking making it easier to hear and “speak” to each other under water. We also opportunistically recorded sounds from Hurricane Douglas (Category 4) and a 6.2 magnitude earthquake around the time Kilauea began erupting. Overall, this study provides the first description of underwater soundscapes at Hawaiian monk seal critical habitats. These measurements can serve as a baseline for future studies to understand the impact of human activity on underwater soundscapes.

2pUW2 – Pacific Echo: A deep ocean collaborative experiment

Ross Chapman – chapman@uvic.ca
University of Victoria
3800 Finnerty Road
Victoria, BC V8P 5C2

Popular version of 2pUW2- Pacific Echo: A deep ocean collaborative experiment
Presented Tuesday afternoon, May 24, 2022
182nd ASA Meeting
Click here to read the abstract

The ocean bottom in large regions of the Pacific Ocean consists of a thin layer of deep ocean sediment on top of oceanic crust (Figure 1).  Crustal rock created at deep ocean fractures at spreading zones moves slowly away outward over millions of years, generating a rugged crustal layer of increasing geological age with increasing distance from the spreading zone.  The presence of solid basalt crustal rock close to the sea floor creates a strikingly different ocean bottom environment compared to most other ocean regions.

Pacific Echo

Figure 1.  The ocean bathymetry in a region of the older Pacific Echo crust sites.  Ocean depth is ~5400 m.

In the latter stages of the Cold War, researchers in navy laboratories carried out a series of experiments at sea to study the impact of this solid rock ocean bottom on sound propagation and underwater target detection.  The experimental programme, Pacific Echo, was a collaboration between researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington and the Canadian Defence Research Establishment Pacific in Victoria.  Four sea trials were carried out between 1986 and 1992 at various deep water Pacific sites.  The research objective was to understand the physics of sound interaction with the solid rock ocean bottom, where the dominant reflection of sound was from an interface beneath the sea floor.  Interaction of sound with the rock generates an additional energy loss due to shear waves that propagate in the rock.  This type of energy loss is not significant in other ocean bottom environments that consist of layers of unconsolidated sediment where shear waves in the sediment material are very weak.

Figure 2. Deploying the hydrophone line array from the stern of CFAV Endeavour at sea.

The experimental plan in Pacific Echo involved measurements of the ocean bottom reflection coefficient using a towed horizontal hydrophone line array (Figure 2).  A new technique, the broadside reflectivity measurement (BRM), was developed for efficient acquisition of high quality data.  The BRM method involved two ships, USNS DeSteiguer deployed sound sources while CFAV Endeavour towed the hydrophone array along headings shown in Figure 3.  The array acts as a directional receiver to enable separation of the specular or mirror-like reflection from unwanted contributions arising from basalt outcrop features.

Figure 3. Schematic diagram of ship tracks during the BRM measurement.

The measured reflection coefficients, as in the example shown in Figure 4, revealed large energy loss at low grazing angles less than ~55°.  This loss, due to shear waves generated in the rock, confirmed the hypothesis of reflectivity dominated by the oceanic crust.

Figure 4.  Reflection coefficient measured at one of the older sites in Pacific Echo.

The Pacific Echo data also provided new information about an underlying research question in marine geophysics related to the aging process in oceanic crust.  Estimates of sound speed in basalt derived from the Pacific Echo data revealed sound speeds as low as ~2500 m/s in very young basalt (0-3 million years old), increasing to ~3600 m/s at the oldest sites (~70 million years old).  These results gave support to the research hypothesis that sound speed in oceanic crust increased with the age of the basalt.