NASA Taking First Trek to Arctic for Ocean Research

arctic photo

Photo by US Geological Survey via Flickr CC

NASA researchers are getting ready for a voyage to the Arctic to study how climate change is impacting the ecosystems and chemistry of icy north. The 5-week long mission, appropriately named Impacts of Climate on Ecosystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment (ICESCAPE) begins June 15th, and by comparing the research team's observations with NASA's satellite views of the Arctic Ocean biology and sea ice, the team hopes to come back with answers on how our oceans and ice conditions are changing, and a better understanding of how the atmosphere, ocean, and sea ice are all interconnected.According to Our Amazing Planet, the research team's home will be the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, which will travel through the Bering Strait into the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off the northern coast of Alaska. The team will be looking at everything from the water's optical properties and sea ice thickness, down to phytoplankton and other microscopic life.

"To me what's really exciting about [ICESCAPE] is the biological connections," said ICESCAPE co-chief scientist Don Perovich of the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H.

Because the sea ice has dramatically thinned over recent years, the impact of global climate change is only just starting to be understood. Thinner ice means more light is let through to the water, which changes the start of the food chain. This mission will go a long way in helping scientists uncover how disappearing ice affects the entire food chain and systems from the northernmost part of our planet and outward.

The researchers are particularly interested in the Chukchi and Beafort Sea because the changes noticed from global warming are especially apparent, changes which impact flora and fauna from algae up to polar bears.

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