What's Happening Archive
The northern Bering and Chukchi Seas are among the world’s most productive ocean areas. They are home to millions of seabirds and marine mammals and vibrant Indigenous cultures. The region has also long been one of the fastest warming places on the planet. In a recnetly published paper in Nature Climate Change, a multi-disciplinary team of academic, government, and private sector scientists reports that dramatic changes in these Arctic ecosystems due to warmer ocean conditions. The scientific team, participating in a four-year Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Research Program, observed conditions more typical of subarctic ecosystems.
"The rate of change over the study timeframe came as a shock. Having a team with the expertise to put together the pieces across the whole ecosystem simply drives home how far-reaching the changes are and how much they matter," said Henry Huntington, lead author of the study.
Some key observations over the past several years of the study include:
- Near-bottom waters that typically remained close to freezing year-round have in the past four years warmed for several months in the summer and fall.
- Sea ice that used to start forming each fall has been absent or sparse into January and February and the spring ice retreat was earlier than normal in recent years.
- Juvenile Arctic Cod, which dominate pelagic fish communities in the northern Chukchi Sea, were substantially more abundant in 2017 than in 2012 and 2013.
- In 2017 pink salmon were observed to have increased dramatically in abundance in the northern Bering Sea
- Bowhead whales that typically migrate south of St. Lawrence Island were observed year-round north of the Bering Strait.
- Ice seals were absent from vast portions of some of their main breeding areas, and dead seals were reported in unusually high numbers on the Bering and Chukchi coasts.
The North Pacific Research Board, in cooperation with other organizations funded the Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Research Program. The goal of the program was to better understand the mechanisms and processes that structure the ecosystem and influence the distribution, life history, and interactions of biological communities in the Chukchi Sea. Previous integrated ecosystem programs were undertaken in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.
The big question for scientists remains whether these changes reflect a new norm. Collaborative research efforts like this are important because they allow scientists to monitor changes as they are happening and provide meaningful information to local communities and resource managers so they are better able to respond and adapt.
The team of authors includes physical and biological oceanographers, ichthyologists, ornithologists, marine mammalogists, marine ecologists, and social scientists, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Washington, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, the North Pacific Research Board, Stantec, and Huntington Consulting.
PMEL's EcoFOCI program was involved with the study. EcoFOCI is a joint research program between NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Lab and NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center. EcoFOCI scientists integrate field, laboratory and modeling studies to determine how varying biological and physical factors influence large marine ecosystems within Alaskan waters.
Read the full press release here.
41 scientists from PMEL, including scientists from NOAA's cooperative institutes at the University of Washington's Joint Institute for the Study of the Ocean and Atmosphere (JISAO) and Oregon State University's Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies (CIMRS), the National Research Council, graduate and undergraduate students are heading to the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego to share their current research. Talks and posters cover a range of topics include saildrone research, ocean observing systems, marine heatwaves, Arctic, acoustics, Deep Argo, genetics and genomics, El Nino, hydrothermal vents, methane, nutrients, technologies, ocean carbon and data management.
The 2020 Oceans Science Meeting is the flagship conference for the ocean sciences and the larger ocean-connected community. As we approach the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, beginning in 2021, it is increasingly important to gather as a scientific community to raise awareness of the truly global dimension of the ocean, address environmental challenges, and set forth on a path towards a resilient planet. The meeting is co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), and The Oceanography Society (TOS).
PMEL research groups that will be present at the conference are: Acoustics, Arctic including Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration, Climate-Weather Interface, Earth-Ocean Interactions, EcoFOCI, Engineering, Genetics and Genomics, Global Tropical Moored Buoy Array, , Large Scale Ocean Physics, Ocean Carbon, Ocean Climate Stations, Pacific Western Boundary Currents, and Science Data Integration Group.
This past fall, NOAA PMEL's Ecosystems and Fisheries-Oceanography Coordinated Investigations (EcoFOCI) program recovered a surface mooring “Peggy” at the biophysical mooring site 2 (M2) adding a prestigious marker to this time series by providing near-continuous, year-round measurements of the southeastern Bering Sea since 1995. Moorings, like M2, give researchers an expanded view of the remote corners of the world's oceans, in this case, measuring temperature, salinity, nitrate, chlorophyll, and currents in this highly productive area. Data used from M2 have been instrumental in studying the loss of sea ice in the Bering Sea, understanding the physics of the Cold Pool and developing the Oscillating Control Hypothesis.
The Bering Sea supports large marine mammal and bird populations and some of the most profitable and sustainable commercial fisheries in the United States. Continuous monitoring of oceanographic conditions from this region provides critical data to support sustainable management of these living marine resources in the Bering Sea.
On March 13, 1995, the M2 surface mooring, nicknamed ‘Peggy’, was deployed from the NOAA Ship Miller Freeman. The surface buoy pays homage to Peggy Dyson, who for 25 years, from her home in Kodiak, Alaska, reported the weather, family messages, and sometimes even paid bills for the mariners of the North Pacific Ocean. She began the radio calls on WBH-29 in 1974 for her husband, late commercial fishing pioneer Oscar Dyson (namesake of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson), to give him weather reports. Peggy became the ‘voice of the north’ and even worked with the NOAA weather service to provide real-time ship-to-shore information to aid forecasters in refining their data, which she did until 1999.
This is a true testament to the regionally focused fisheries-oceanography research program, EcoFOCI, in forecasting the need for long-term monitoring of the Bering Sea as well as providing strong science, information fisheries recruitment and implications to regional fisheries management councils. With the enhancement of Arctic-driven technologies at NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, it is now possible to enhance the M2 site while continuing to meet the goals and responsibility of NOAA and provide solid science for the management of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.
Visit the EcoFOCI website for more information about research done in the Bering Sea, Gulf of Alaska, and Arctic waters.
The proportion of old, thick ice in the Arctic's winter maximum ice pack has dropped from more than a third in the mid-1980s to barely just 1 percent today. See more visual highlights: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/2019-arctic-report-card-visual-highlights
NOAA recently released the 2019 Arctic Report Card at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting providing updates on the ongoing impact of changing conditions in the Arctic on the environment and communities, especially from continued warming and record sea ice loss. This work brings together 81 scientists from 12 nations to provide the latest in peer-reviewed, actionable environmental information on the current state of the Arctic environmental system relative to historical records.
The average annual land surface air temperature north of 60° N for October 2018-August 2019 was the second warmest since 1900. The warming air temperatures are driving changes in the Arctic environment that affect ecosystems and communities on a regional and global scale.
In the marine environment, August mean sea surface temperatures in 2019 were 1-7°C warmer than the 1982-2010 August mean in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, the Laptev Sea, and Baffin Bay. Arctic sea ice extent at the end of summer 2019 was tied with 2007 and 2016 as the second lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. The thickness of the sea ice has also decreased, resulting in an ice cover that is more vulnerable to warming air and ocean temperatures. The winter sea ice extent in 2019 narrowly missed surpassing the record low set in 2018, leading to record-breaking warm ocean temperatures in 2019 on the southern shelf. Bottom temperatures on the northern Bering shelf exceeded 4°C for the first time in November 2018. Bering and Barents Seas fisheries have experienced a northerly shift in the distribution of subarctic and Arctic fish species, linked to the loss of sea ice and changes in bottom water temperature.
Less than 1 percent of Arctic ice has survived four or more summers In March 1985, sea ice at least four years old made up 33 percent of the ice pack in the Arctic Ocean; in March 2019, ice that old made up 1.2 percent of the pack. Instead, more than three-quarters of the winter ice pack today consists of thin ice that is just a few months old, whereas in the past it was just over half.
Read more highlights and the full Arctic Report card here.
The NOAA Press Release can be found here.
These maps show the age of sea ice in the Arctic ice pack in March 1985 (left) and March 2018 (right). Less than 1 percent of Arctic ice has survived four or more summers. See more visual highlights of the Arctic Report Card on NOAA climate.gov
December 11 - NOAA released the 2018 Arctic Report Card at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in Washington, D.C today bringing together the work of 81 scientists from 12 nations to provide the latest in peer-reviewed, actionable environmental information on the current state of the Arctic environmental system relative to historical records.
The Arctic continued it long-term warming trend in 2018, warming at twice the rate relative to the rest of the globe with Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) exceeding all previous records since 1900. Arctic sea ice in 2018 remained younger, thinner, and covered less area than in the past. The 12 lowest extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last 12 years. In the Bering Sea, winter sea ice extent reached a record low for virtually the entire 2017-2018 ice season, which typically begins to form at the beginning of October, expands through the winter and then melts through the spring. During two weeks in February, typically the height of winter, the Bering Sea lost significant ice cover, about ~215,000 km2 or about the size of Idaho. Ocean primary productivity levels in 2018 were sometimes 500% higher than normal levels in the Bering Sea which is linked to the record low sea ice extent in the region. The Bering Sea is an important commercial fishing region and supports a vibrant sea ice-ecosystem with abundant seals, birds, and other pelagic species that critically depend on the timing of sea ice formation and retreat.
Continued warming of the Arctic atmosphere and ocean are driving broad change in the environmental system in predicted and, also, unexpected ways. New emerging threats are taking form and highlighting the level of uncertainty in the breadth of environmental change that is to come. For more details, visit the Arctic Report Card website: https://arctic.noaa.gov/Report-Card
Read the NOAA Press Release here.
Watch the video highlights on YouTube here
This weekend, the EcoFOCI program completed its eleventh and final research cruise of its field season on the F/V Aquila to maintain and enhance an innovative array of biophysical moorings in conjunction with annual ship-based hydrographic data in the Bering Sea.
The team recovered 14 and deployed 10 moorings, including swapping the M2-site surface mooring for a sub-surface mooring to prevent damage from the ice to ensure 25 years of nearly continuous data. Scientists from PMEL, NOAA Fisheries Alaska Science Center and University of New Hampshire also collected some measurements from a CTD (conductivity-temperature-depth), nutrients, oxygen, plankton and larval fish along the Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) Line 1, which has only been sampled once in 2017. These DBO lines are designated “hot spots” centered on locations of high productivity, biodiversity and rates of biological change in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort seas.
Results from these observations and experiments will help describe important ecosystem linkages among climate, plankton, fishes, birds and mammals. Continuous monitoring from this region provides critical data to support sustainable management of living resources in the Bering Sea.
The EcoFOCI program is a collaborative research effort by scientists at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab (PMEL) and Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) focusing on the unique and economically important high-latitude ecosystems of Alaska.
Congratulations to all involved with the 2016 Saildrone missions on receiving the Department of Commence Bronze Award and to Susie Snyder for receiving the NOAA Distinguished Career Award.
NOAA’s PMEL and Alaska Fisheries Science Center were awarded the Bronze Medal for “strengthening NMSF-OAR collaborations through the pioneering use of a Saildrone for next-generation ecosystem surveys in the Bering Sea”.
In 2016, the team successfully conducted the first ecosystem study using two Saildrones. The mission combined both physical and biological oceanography to seek out new ways to supplement traditional vessel-based research. The Saildrones each traveled almost 3,000 nautical miles in the 101 day mission testing innovative technologies, including a specially developed echo sounder and a modified whale acoustic hydrophone. Collectively, the oceanographic, meteorological, and fisheries measurements provided unique and groundbreaking insights to understanding the economically and culturally important ecosystem in the Bering Sea.
This was a collaborative mission between the NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, UW Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean, Saildrone Inc., Simrad AS/Kongsberg Maritime, Greeneridge Sciences Inc, and Wildlife Computers. Read more about the 2016 mission here.
The DOC Bronze Award is the highest honor award granted by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, which recognizes superior performance characterized by outstanding or significant contributions, which have increased the efficiency and effectiveness of NOAA.
Susie Snyder was also awarded The Distinguished Career Award for her “continued efforts in improving budgetary policies and procedures relating to memorandum of agreements and reimbursable funds throughout 30 years of service to NOAA”. This award honors contributions on a sustained basis — a body of work — rather than a single, defined accomplishment. This award also recognizes significant accomplishments across all NOAA program areas and functions that have resulted in long- term benefits to the bureau’s mission and strategic goals.
More than 50 PMEL scientists, including scientists from NOAA, University of Washington's Joint Institute for the Study of the Ocean and Atmosphere (JISAO), Oregon State University's Cooperative Institute for Marine Resources Studies (CIMRS) and the National Research Council, will present a talk or share a poster on their research at the 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon February 12-16, 2018. PMEL research groups that will be present at the conference are: Acoustics, Arctic, Earth-Ocean Interactions, EcoFOCI, Engineering, Global Tropical Moored Buoy Array, Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration, Large Scale Ocean Physics, Ocean Carbon, Ocean Climate Stations, Pacific Western Boundary Currents, Science Data Integration Group, Thermal Modeling and Analysis Project
28 talks will present research on ocean carbon, ocean acidification, ocean observing systems, Arctic research including the Distributed Biological Observatory and Arctic Marine Pulses (AMP), ENSO, MJO, hydrothermal vents, Saildrone research, air-sea interactions, SOCCOM, and ocean mixing. 26 posters will be up during the poster sessions and highlight research in the Arctic, hydrothermal vents, acoustics, methane bubbles and hydrates, Saildrone, Oculus Coastal Glider, ocean carbon, deep ocean temperatures, glider research in the Solomon Sea, and ocean acidification and hyopxia.
PMEL staff will also be chairing sessions and workshops on:
- El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diversity, Predictability, and Impacts
- Western Pacific and Indonesian Sea Circulation and Its Environmental and Climatic Impacts
- New Platform and Sensor Technologies: Advancing Research, Readiness, and Transitioning for Sustained Ocean Observing of Essential Ocean Variables
- Methane from the Subsurface Through the Bio-, Hydro-, and Atmosphere: Advances in Natural Hydrate Systems and Methane Seeps in Marine Ecosystems
- Cascadia Margin methane seep and hydrates to share results and coordinate future work
The 2018 Ocean Sciences Meeting is co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), and The Oceanography Society (TOS). The meeting is an important venue for scientific exchange across broad marine science disciplines. Sessions will include all aspects of oceanography, especially multidisciplinary topics, as well as presentations that reflect new and emerging research on the global ocean and society, including science education, outreach, and public policy
After 60 days in the Bering Sea, the Oculus Coastal Glider was successfully recovered by crew of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson on September 26, 2017. The glider successfully navigated 242.8 nautical miles, completed 3612 dives, and sampled salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, sunlight, and fluorescence at a frequency of approximately 3 dives per hour. The glider was tested in a region with a long history of shipboard and mooring observations that provide context for the Oculus glider's observations. Oculus glider measurements reveal detailed information in a known, important biogeographical transition that divides the ecosystems of the northern and southern Bering Sea shelf near St. Matthew Island. Measurements show unexpected ocean mixing in the water column near the island that may be due to internal waves. Data, sensor, and platform analysis is ongoing. Incorporating this higher resolution sampling into the Bering Sea observing network will improve our understanding of how these features affect the ecosystem.
The Oculus is a coastal glider engineered to work in the highly stratified, shallow depths of the Arctic. By using a rapid buoyancy system, the glider can change buoyancy states 20 times faster and achieve speeds three times faster than legacy gliders - allowing for a more efficient and adaptive Arctic survey, but transferable to a variety of markets.
This was the second field test for the Oculus coastal gliders. The first field test occurred early May 2017, also in the Bering Sea, with 387 dives completed near the M2 mooring site. For the second field test, the glider was deployed from the US Coast Gaurd Cutter Healy during the 2017 Arctic Shield mission.
The Oculus was developed at PMEL in partnership with the University of Washington's Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean and the University of Washington Seaglider Fabrication Lab.
Over the next four months, NOAA scientists will launch unmanned ocean vehicles, called Saildrones, from the Arctic to the tropical Pacific Ocean to help better understand how changes in the ocean are affecting weather, climate, fisheries and marine mammals. The wind and solar-powered research vehicles that resemble a sailboat will travel thousands of miles across the ocean, reaching some areas never before surveyed with such specialized technology.
Earlier this week, PMEL scientists and Saildrone, Inc. sent off three saildrones from Dutch Harbor, Alaska. For the first time, two saildrones will sail north through the Bering Strait into the Arctic Ocean to study how the Arctic Ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide. A third unmanned vehicle will survey more than 3,100 nautical miles in the Bering Sea for walleye pollock, Northern fur seals that prey on them and the elusive North Pacific right whale. This work will build on research conducted during 2016, including a study of fur seal feeding rates. NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center scientists will also attach video cameras to fur seals to record feeding and verify the species and sizes of fish that fur seals are eating.
In September, scientists will launch two more unmanned systems from Alameda, Calif., on a six-month, 8,000-nautical-mile, round-trip mission to the equator to improve the Tropical Pacific Observing System (TPOS). TPOS provides real-time data used by the U.S. and partner nations to forecast weather and climate, including El Nino. The unmanned sailing vehicles will take part in a larger field study with NASA, and visit mooring sites along the array of observing buoys.
Read the release on NOAA Research here and follow along with the Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration's Blog for the Bering and Chukchi Seas missions.