NASA Icebreaker Voyage to Probe Climate Change Impact on Arctic

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Credit: NASA

6/8/2010

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."

Read the rest of the story here.

Track the ICESCAPE blog here.