First they thought we were too late, now the worry is spreading amongst the science party that we are too early. For the scientists aboard the Healy, the Arctic spring is yet to have sprung. Science is underway, but the ice is still thick and no phytoplankton are blooming in the ocean. Granted, these are the initial conditions the team hoped to get north to sample, but now, cold day after cold day is leaving everyone concerned that the melt will not come before our time in the Arctic is up.

The idea of the expedition is to measure the blooms of microscopic plants called phytoplankton underneath the sea ice. These provide the food for the entire Arctic ecosystem and their recent discovery under the thinning sea ice has cast questions over how this will effect the timing and location of the input of food to the Arctic. The team is made up of scientists from three disciplines: sea ice geophysics, biology and physical oceanography. By joining forces the team hope to unravel the mysteries of the recent thinning sea ice, the increased light penetration and the explosion of life in a new and unexpected place.

The one thing they need to happen is for the snow to melt on the sea ice and form melt ponds. At this time, the reflectivity of the surface will reduce four fold, letting enough light through in theory to trigger the bloom. But, the expedition is already halfway done; cold day has followed cold day and the team are getting nervous that the melt might come to late.

About The Author

Ben Harden

Ben is a polar oceanographer and meteorologist working at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He is also a multimedia producer making radio and video programs. On this expedition Ben will be documenting the science and life aboard the Healy in a range of mediums.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.