A two-year research project funded by NASA called ICESCAPE is in the news. Findings of a team lead by Kevin Arrigo (the study’s chief scientist and a biological oceanographer at Stanford University) were published the journal Science on June 7th.
As described by this article in the National Post:
The team was on a U.S. icebreaker smashing its way across the Chukchi Sea between Siberia and Alaska last July when equipment used to measure phytoplankton went “haywire.”
“We thought there was something wrong with the instruments,” Arrigo told Postmedia News.
Then the scientists made their first scheduled stop to take ice samples and got a good look at the ocean below.
“The water was completely green,” Arrigo said. “It was like pea soup.”
The farther they ventured into the ice-covered sea for their NASA-funded project to study ice, the more intense the under-ice algae bloom, says Arrigo, a veteran of many trips to the Arctic and Antarctic.
“It was shocking,” he says.
Shocking as in totally unexpected? Shocking as in terrible news? Basically, it’s new information that demands more study and understanding. (Hence this post.) Pea soup waters in the Arctic could be a big deal.
A news blog post on Nature.com put it this way:
As Arctic ice melts earlier in the summer thanks to climate change, these blooms could grow in extent or happen earlier in the year. The implications of that are unknown, but it could be bad news for fish that feed on open-water phytoplankton, or animals that time their summer trips to the Arctic to match what has traditionally been the peak of phytoplankton blooms. “There’s going to be winners and losers,” says Arrigo.
The Christian Science Monitor has a good write-up on the topic (Don Perovich, is the study’s co-chief scientist):
Despite the concerns, the thrill of discovery remains an undercurrent as the researchers talk about their results.
“This is what you live for as a scientist,” uncovering something “beyond unexpected,” Perovich says. “This is a new Arctic Ocean, full of surprises.”
Stay tuned, eh?