Scientists have made a biological discovery in Arctic Ocean waters as dramatic and unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert. They have found a phytoplankton or algal bloom beneath ice in the Arctic. The crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy, in the midst of their ICESCAPE mission. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
A NASA-sponsored expedition punched through three-foot thick sea ice to find waters richer in microscopic marine plants, essential to all sea life, than any other ocean region on Earth.
The immense phytoplankton reveals a new consequence of the Arctic’s warming climate and provides an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology. The discovery was made during a NASA oceanographic expedition in the summers of 2010 and 2011.
The finding is the result of an oceanographic expedition called ICESCAPE, or Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment. The finding reveals a new consequence of the Arctic’s warming climate and provides an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology. (Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)
ICESCAPE, is a NASA-sponsored mission to explore the effects of climate change in the seas along Alaska’s western and northern coasts. During a news conference on Thursday, June 7, 2012, 2 p.m. EDT, ICESCAPE researchers and an external commenter will discuss an unprecedented biological discovery in Arctic Ocean waters during the summer of 2011.
“Part of NASA’s mission is pioneering scientific discovery, and this is like finding the Amazon rainforest in the middle of the Mojave Desert,” said Paula Bontempi, NASA’s ocean biology and biogeochemistry program manager in Washington. “We embarked on ICESCAPE to validate our satellite ocean-observing data in an area of the Earth that is very difficult to get to,” Bontempi said. “We wound up making a discovery that hopefully will help researchers and resource managers better understand the Arctic.”
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