We Blogged It!

Back to the Ice!

11/22/2010, 12:00 AM by Lollie Garay
RV Palmer<br/><br/>Credit: Sarah Anderson (PolarTREC 2007) Courtesy of ARCUS
RV Palmer
Photo Credit: Sarah Anderson (PolarTREC 2007) Courtesy of ARCUS

Team ASPIRE is now arriving in Punta Arenas, Chile to begin its two month expedition on the RV Nathaniel B. Palmer. Destination: The Amundsen Sea polyna.

The team of US and Swedish researchers  led by Chief Scientist Tish Yager (UGA) is reuniting for the  first time since their initial brief exploration of this polyna in 2007 onboard the icebreaker Oden.

Dr. Yager explains that the biogeochemical processes of the Amundsen Sea were previously unknown until that initial investigation.

“Polynyas, or recurring areas of seasonally open water surrounded by ice, are hot spots for energy and material transfer between the atmosphere, polar surface ocean, and deep sea. These polar ecosystems are characterized by high productivity and intense biogeochemical cycling.”

The 2007 investigation confirmed very high levels of chlorophyll a (up to 10.4 μg per liter at 10 m depth; W. Smith. pers. comm.) and rates of pelagic bacterial production higher than any ever measured during years of research in the Ross Sea Polynya (Yager, unpubl. data.).

She also states that the Amundsen Sea polyna exhibits higher productivity per square meter, higher chlorophyll levels during peak bloom and greater interannual variability than the better-studied Ross Sea Polynya ecosystem.

The international team of trace metal and carbon chemists, phytoplankton physiologists, microbial and zooplankton ecologists, and physical oceanographers will investigate “why and how the Amundsen Sea Polynya is so much more productive than other polynyas and whether interannual variability can provide insight to climate-sensitive mechanisms driving carbon fluxes there”.

A unique aspect to this years’ expedition will be that the total expedition will be carried out by two ships.  This year, the Swedish Icebreaker Oden will be joined by USAP RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer.  The ASPIRE team will be on the Palmer, a ship well designed for oceanographic research in open water.  A team of scientists focused on the sea ice ecosystems will be onboard the Oden, a powerful ship well designed for work in the ice.  The NBP will have groups led by Tish Yager, Hugh Ducklow, Oscar Schofield, Rob Sherrell, Sharon Stammerjohn, Stefan Bertilsson, Lasse Riemann, and Kuria Ndungu, Per-Olav Moksness, Stan Jacobs, Sven Thatje, and Richard Aronson.  The Oden will carry lead researchers Katarina Abrahamsson, Rebecca Dickhut, Lars Arneborg, Göran Bjork, Melissa Chierici, Agneta Fransson, and Anna Wahlin, among others.

Two PolarTREC teachers will manage Blogs  and a Q & A documenting the expedition from the perspective of each ship. You can follow the Oden team through journals posted by onboard teacher Anne Marie Wotkyns at www.polartrec.com.

And I will give the latest on the NBP here at this site through the eyes of those onboard !

Let’s all go to Antarctica!!

Lollie Garay

PolarTREC -Oden Southern Ocean, 2007




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Question of the Day

  • What are Polynyas and why are they important to study?

    Polynyas, are recurring areas of seasonally open water surrounded by ice.

    Energy and material transfer between the atmosphere, polar surface ocean, and the deep sea in polynas provide polar ecosystems with just the right ingredients needed for high productivity and intense biogeochemical recycling.

    Polynyas may be the key to understanding the future of Polar Regions since their extent is expected to increase with anthropogenic warming.