The CSIRO and the search for MH370
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing on Saturday, 8 March 2014 (Day 1).
On 17 March 2014 (Day 10) the Australian Government accepted responsibility for initial search operations in the southern part of the Indian Ocean. The search for MH370 coordinated by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority continued for 42 days and concluded on Monday, 28 April 2014 (Day 52).
So, by the time aircraft started flying from RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia to search for signs of MH370, any debris from the Malaysia Airlines' Boeing 777 could have drifted hundreds of kilometres from the point of impact in the southern Indian Ocean and would continue to drift (or sink) during the period of the search. And to find the point of impact, if any debris were to be located by satellite or other means, would require an understanding of the ocean currents to 'back-track' to the original location. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority requested technical assistance from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), an Australian Government body with which AMSA already had a Memorandum of Understanding.
The CSIRO's program most relevant to the search for MH370 is Oceans and Atmosphere, which includes Ocean and Climate Dynamics from which the CSIRO created a task force of oceanographers to provide advice based on drift modelling.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB), which led the underwater search for MH370, has acknowledged the important work done by the CSIRO in their final report The Operational Search for MH370, and the ATSB website for the Investigation AE-2014-054 hosts several drift studies conducted by the CSIRO.
The Operational Search for MH370
The Final Report from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau was published on 3 October 2017 and concludes the External Investigation AE-2014-054 Assistance to Malaysian Ministry of Transport in support of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on 7 March 2014 UTC. The Report acknowledges the contribution to the search for MH370 by the CSIRO and includes content developed or analysed by the CSIRO team.
The AE-2014-054 website also hosts the CSIRO reports:- The search for MH370 and ocean surface drift, parts I, II, III and IV which are available for download.
The following articles are published on the CSIRO website https://www.csiro.au/:-
What’s our role in the search for missing flight MH370? (28 March 2014)
What does our ocean modeling tell us about the fate of flight MH370? (5 August 2015)
What debris and the Indian Ocean told drift modellers about MH370 search area (21 April, 2017)
After a flaperon (part of the Boeing 777 wing) was found on La Réunion Island in July 2015, CSIRO scientist David Griffin performed new drift testing research using a flaperon from another Boeing 777 and showed how that first piece of debris might have travelled so quickly from the presumed southern flight path of the missing plane west across the Indian Ocean.
Satellite images add to weight of evidence locating missing MH370 (16 August 2017)
Satellite images taken two weeks after the disappearance of MH370 featured several man-made objects, potentially pointing to a more refined estimate of the location of the aircraft on the sea floor...
Notes and References
- What’s our role in the search for missing flight MH370?, CSIRO, 28 March 2014
This article describes conditions in the search area with strong winds; large waves; and turbulent eddies about 100 km wide; water moving around these eddies at about 0.5 metres a second; and debris could travel up to 50 kilometres a day.
- The Operational Search for MH370, Australian Transport Safety Bureau, 3 October 2017, available for download from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau page for the External Investigation AE-2014-054