Covering more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface, the oceans act as our planet’s heartbeat, with differences in depths, currents, temperature and salinity marking changes in its pulse. While these measurements are fairly straightforward, the information they relay about Earth’s health is much more complex.

As the planet warms, much of the heat is absorbed in the oceans, resulting in rising sea levels and changes to how water mixes and currents move. While 85 percent of the temperature in the upper water column is well studied, scientists have uncovered “less than 5 percent of what’s between 2,000 meters and the bottom,” says Fritz Stahr, manager of the UW’s Seaglider Fabrication Center. “The deep ocean may play a large role in how much heat is absorbed from the atmosphere and spread around the oceans.” Now, the center’s team stands to vastly improve that number with the Deepglider autonomous underwater vehicle.

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