What Do We Do?
In 2007, a group of American and Swedish scientists had a unique opportunity to cross the South Pacific Sector of the Southern Ocean on the Swedish Icebreaker Oden and stop for a while in the Amundsen Sea polynya, a place on Earth that is just about as far as you can get from human civilization. Satellites tell us that this is one of the most productive regions of coastal Antarctica. While we were there, we saw very high levels of productivity and significant drawdown of carbon dioxide by the ecosystem. We also knew that nearby glaciers were melting and likely impacting the region. During our short visit, we gathered enough information to know that we wanted to return to this extraordinary place.
This year, we have our chance.
In December 2010, the US Research Icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer will be joined by the Swedish Icebreaker Oden for a two-boat expedition to the Amundsen Sea. Scientists on the Palmer will focus on understanding the climate-sensitive dynamics of the open water region, known as a "polynya." Oden scientists will investigate the sea ice ecosystem nearby. Both groups aim to improve our understanding of how climate change will impact this important ecosystem.
Patricia L. Yager, Chief Scientist