May 13th, 2014 : An overview of open water in the Chukchi Sea

As the scientific crew of the Arctic Spring project loads the R/V Healy in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, back here at WHOI we are having a look at satellite imagery collected by a series of NASA Earth observing satellites.  We will be using these images to help guide the expedition.

Over the following weeks, the Arctic Spring expedition will head north, into the cold Bering Sea and the still-frozen Chukchi Sea (see overview map of the region where the Arctic Spring Expedition to the right), with the aim of observing the onset of a massive bloom of phytoplankton that starts under the sea ice (for more info, watch this video).

An overview map of the region where the Arctic Spring Expedition will be unfolding over the next ~450 days.

An overview map of the region where the Arctic Spring Expedition will be unfolding over the next ~450 days.

Over the following weeks we will be providing regular updates of the sea-ice extent and the progression of the phytoplankton bloom into the spring and summer.  We will be relying primarily on True-Color images constructed from observations made by NASA’s MODIS sensor onboard the Aqua satellite.  In general, we take multiple images and composite them into a single image to provide as large of an overview as possible.

The composite True-Color image from May 12th is shown below.  On this image we have indicated regions of open-water, where the sea-ice has already melted and the ocean surface can be seen from satellite (open-water is outlines in blue) and phytoplankton blooms are indicated by black arrows.

Composite True-Color image from MODIS-Aqua showing open water (outlined in blue) and phytoplankton blooms (indicated by black arrows)

A close-up composite of True-Color image from MODIS-Aqua from May 13th, 2014 (below) shows a number of icebergs along the edge of the melting ice (indicated by green arrows) .

May 13th, 2014 composite True Color image of the Chukchi Sea region shown the breaking up of the sea ice.

May 13th, 2014 composite True Color image of the Chukchi Sea region shown the breaking up of the sea ice.

Following the start of the expedition, we will continue to watch the progression of the retreating ice and subsequent phytoplankton bloom.  Make sure to check back for updates!

About The Author

Peter Gaube
Oceanographer

Oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Peter works with satellite observations and numerical ocean models to study physical/biological interactions in the sea. During the expedition, Peter will be uploading satellite images and writing about the sea ice and phytoplankton.

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