Climate Scientists Request Protection From Somali Pirates

First Australian climate scientists had to go into witness protection. Now they’re being threatened by pirates. Or their research is, anyway.

Climate scientists are asking the Australian and U.S. navies to help ward off pirates so they can deploy robotic instruments in the western Indian Ocean, reports the Independent.

Researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) want to deploy about 20 monitoring instruments north of Mauritius, a tiny island off the east coast of Madagascar. The devices are programmed to submerge and resurface, recording ocean heat and salinity patterns and transmitting data to satellites. The data will help improve climate models and forecasts for monsoons and floods in Australia and southeast Asia, the scientists say.

The project is part of the international Argo collaboration, in which more than 3,000 robotic monitoring systems are tracking ocean heat and salinity.

But piracy in the area has made it too dangerous for research vessels to bring the instruments out to sea, [the reports. Research voyages have been cancelled, and it’s not safe to send scientists to the area, Ann Thresher of CSIRO told the newspaper.

“I know there’s a report of at least one ship that hired an armed escort – that’s pretty extreme when you’re talking about climate change,” she said.

Then again, maybe not.

The western Indian Ocean is still a pirate hot spot, the Independent notes. In the first half of his year, 163 of 266 attacks were carried out by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. The U.S. military has been guarding merchant vessels from attack, but piracy is still on the rise — there have been 100 more attacks this year than over the same period last year. The Navy has even experimented with online gaming communities to develop new anti-pirate strategies, but it proved too popular and the Navy had to back off.

The Independent