The NOAA research vessel Ronald H. Brown has returned from her longest deployment – 1,347 days, longer than any other NOAA ship has ever been away from home port.
"My congratulations and thanks to the officers and crew of NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown for their hard work, dedication and service during this extended and unprecedented deployment," said Rear Adm. David A. Score, director of NOAA's Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. "Working from ocean to ocean and from pole to pole, the ship and her crew have expanded our understanding of some of nature’s most powerful forces."
The Brown has traveled 130,000 miles over the past three and half years, and she has certainly been busy. Her crews and scientists deployed over 80 weather buoys; studied the heavy winter storms known as "atmospheric rivers" off of the U.S. West Coast; and joined in a rapid response mission to observe the powerful El Niño event in 2015-2016. She surveyed nearly 360,000 square miles of seafloor and took over 1,600 water measurements; traveled from Alaska's far north to Antarctica; and visited regions from the U.S. Remote Pacific Islands to Portugal.
During the El Niño project, the Brown joined NOAA's Gulfstream IV research plane and NASA's Global Hawk high-altitude drone in a coordinated field campaign across a vast swath of the Pacific Ocean. “This has never been done with a major El Niño,” said Randall Dole, a senior scientist at NOAA’s Earth Sciences Research Lab, speaking to Climate Central. “A field campaign ordinarily takes years to plan and execute. But we recognized what an important opportunity we had and everyone worked hard to pull this mission together.” NOAA said that it joined in the effort in order to shed more light on El Niño's effects on California, which has suffered from drought conditions since 2011.
At the dock in Charleston, Capt. Robert Kamphaus told Charleston's Post and Courier that he was glad to be home. "Get the lines over, get tied off and take a deep breath knowing everybody got home safely, knock on wood," he said. But the Brown won't be home for long: she is scheduled to head right back to sea in April for a series of ocean climate studies.