NASA Icebreaker Voyage To Probe Climate Change Impact On Arctic

WASHINGTON -- NASA's first dedicated oceanographic field campaign goes to sea June 15 to take an up-close look at how changing conditions in
the Arctic are affecting the ocean's chemistry and ecosystems that
play a critical role in global climate change.

The "Impacts of Climate on Ecosystems and Chemistry of the Arctic
Pacific Environment" mission, or ICESCAPE, will investigate the
impacts of climate change on the ecology and biogeochemistry of the
Chukchi and Beaufort seas. A key focus is how changes in the Arctic
may be altering the ocean's ability to absorb carbon from the
atmosphere. The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is a leading cause of
global warming.

Predictions of future climate change depend on knowing the details of
how this carbon cycle works in different parts of the world. NASA's
Earth science program conducts research into the global Earth system
using satellite observations. Identifying how Earth's ecology and
chemistry are influenced by natural processes and by humans is a key
part of this research.

The Arctic Ocean, unlike other oceans, is almost completely
landlocked, making it an ideal location to study ongoing climate
changes in a marine ecosystem already heavily impacted by declining
sea ice cover, ocean acidification, and an increase in incoming solar
radiation. These changes are likely to modify the physics,
biogeochemistry, and ecology of this environment in ways that are not
well understood. Satellite remote sensing has provided some insight
into these changes which ICESCAPE is designed to advance.

"The ocean ecosystem in the Arctic has changed dramatically in recent
years, and it's changing much faster and much more than any other
ocean in the world," said ICESCAPE chief scientist Kevin Arrigo of
Stanford University. "Declining sea ice in the Arctic is certainly
one reason for the change, but that's not the whole story. We need to
find out, for example, where the nutrients are coming from that feed
this growth if we are going to be able to predict what the future
holds for this region."

ICESCAPE takes to sea onboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, the
United States' newest and most technologically advanced polar
icebreaker. The Healy conducts a wide range of research activities,
providing more than 4,200 square feet of scientific laboratory space.
It is designed to break four-and-a-half feet of ice continuously at
three knots and operate in temperatures as low as -50 degrees

The Healy leaves Dutch Harbor in Alaska's Aleutian Islands on June 15
and heads to the Bering Strait where it begins ocean sampling. The
voyage continues across the southern Chukchi Sea and into the
Beaufort Sea along northern Alaska's ocean shelf. In early July the
Healy will head north into deeper waters to sample thick, multi-year
sea ice and take samples within and beneath the ice.

More than 40 scientists will spend five weeks at sea sampling the
physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the ocean and
sea ice. A variety of instruments will be used onboard the Healy and
deployed into the ocean and on the sea ice.

An automated microscope onboard will take continuous digital
photographs of phytoplankton cells for near-real time observations of
the quantity of different species. Floats with near-real time
satellite communication will be placed in the ocean to measure
temperature and various biological and optical properties. Scientists
also will work on the sea ice several hundred yards from the ship to
study the condition of the ice and sample the ocean ecosystem beneath

Satellite observations are a key part of the ICESCAPE mission. NASA
uses its satellite observations to monitor the microscopic plant and
animal life in the world's oceans. This "ocean color" data gives
scientists a global view of a critical ecosystem that regulates the
flow of carbon into and out of the sea. Similar observations of the
Arctic waters collected from the Healy during ICESCAPE will be used
to improve the accuracy of the satellite data over the entire region.

ICESCAPE science teams are led by researchers from Stanford
University, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center
Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, N.H.;
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, Calif.; Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass.; University of
Washington, Seattle; Clark University, Worcester, Mass.; and the
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, St. George's.

ICESCAPE is funded by NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.
The $10 million program is a joint effort of the Earth Science
Division's Cryospheric Sciences and Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry

For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:


Source: NASA

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