July 20, 2012
Public Affairs Office
BEAUFORT and CHUKCHI SEAS, Arctic Ocean – A team of scientists supported by NASA’s ICESCAPE (Impacts of Climate on the Eco-Systems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment) program in 2011 discovered and documented a massive phytoplankton bloom beneath fully consolidated sea ice in the Arctic.
Drs. Don Perovich, ERDC Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), and Kevin Arrigo, Stanford University, led the project as co-chief scientists, with many others across a wide range of academic and research institutions.
As reported in the June issue of Science, this surprising finding sweeps away earlier assumptions about primary production in ice-covered Arctic waters. CRREL Scientist Dr. Chris Polashenski coordinated the ice morphology studies during the field campaign. And Perovich, through his expertise in the optics of sea ice and surface melt ponds, helped explain the presence of light under the ice, the critical missing factor to understanding why the bloom occurs.
With the much greater presence of “first-year ice,” relative to the much thicker “multi-year ice,” this phenomenon might occur over far greater reaches than initially thought. In turn, how this might affect migration patterns of other wild life in the Arctic basin remains unknown.
The NASA ICESCAPE field campaign was a multi-year ship-borne project, during the summers of 2010 and 2011.
Learn more about NASA’s ICESCAPE research program at http://www.espo.nasa.gov/icescape/.