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What's New Archive

September 11, 2018
Photograph of NOAA Twin Otter Plane and a deployed Airborne eXpendable Current Profiler over the Chukchi Sea

Deployment of an Airborne eXpendable Current Profilers (AXCP) from the NOAA Twin Otter during the 2018 Arctic Heat flight campaigns over the Chukchi Sea  (Photo Credit: Kevin Wood).

September 11, 2018

Seasonally ice-covered marginal seas are among the most difficult regions in the Arctic to study. The scarcity of observing systems in these areas also hinders forecast services in the region and is a major contributor to large uncertainties in modeling and related climate projections. The Arctic Heat Open Science Experiment strives to fill this observation gap with an array of innovative autonomous floats and other near real-time weather and ocean-sensing systems that allow for continuous monitoring of changing conditions in the Chukchi Sea. Since 2016, over 1,000 Arctic Ocean profiles have been collected by the Arctic Heat project and transmitted in real-time via the Global Telecommunications System (GTS). Data collected during the 2017 field season showed particular warmth in the lower ocean which was a leading factor for the record late freeze up (1 month later than usual) in the region and likely would not have been detected without this field campaign. This event caused a ripple effect including impacts on whale migration patterns, physical ocean circulation patterns and subsistence hunt practices that depend on ice.

This week, researchers aboard the NOAA Twin Otter are launching various atmospheric and oceanographic probes and floats as part of the third and final flight campaign of 2018. They will launch an Air-Launched Autonomous Micro-Observer (ALAMO) profiling float and 20 Airborne eXpendable BathyThermographs (AXBT) and carry out a set of low level surveys around the R/V Sikuliaq using LIDA, longwave radiomtery, and themrla imaging. They will also be on the lookout for higher wind/wave situations to collection additional data for NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) 2 which will be launched on September 14. 

Arctic Heat is an open science experiment, publishing data generated by the project to further NOAA's Science Missions with real-time data to facilitate timely observations for use in weather and sea-ice forecasts, to make data readily accessible for model and reanalysis assimilation, and to support ongoing research activities across disciplines. 

This mission is in coordination with the Office of Naval Research (ONR)'s Stratified Ocean Dynamics of the Arctic (SODA)  in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy's "Interagency Research Effort To Improve Weather, Ice, and Water Forecasting in the Arctic Ocean" led by ONR, NOAA, National Science Foundation, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and NASA.  Arctic Heat is a joint effort of NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) Arctic Research, the Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration (ITAE) program, the ALAMO development group at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) at the University of Washington.

PMEL Project: 

August 07, 2018
Global ocean heat content map in 2017 and change over time

This map shows the ocean heat content in the upper ocean (from the sea surface to a depth of 700 meters, or 2,300 feet) for 2017 relative to the 1993–2017 baseline. It's based on a combination of Argo float observations and satellite data. Places with higher-than-average heat storage are orange, while places with lower-than-average heat storage are blue

August 08, 2018

The 28th annual State of the Climate report was recently released highlighting that 2017 was the third-warmest year on record for the globe, behind 2016 and 2015. The new report confirmed that 2016 surpassed 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of recordkeeping. Several climate indicators also set new records, including greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level rise, heat in the upper ocean, and Arctic sea ice extent.

The 2017 average global CO2 concentration was the highest measured in the modern 38-year global climate record and records created from ice-core samples dating back as far as 800,000 years. Sea level rise also hit a new high, about 3.0 inches higher than the 1993 average and rising globally, at an average rate of 1.2 inches per decade. Heat in the upper ocean hit a record high, reflecting the continued accumulation of thermal energy in the uppermost 2,300 feet of the global oceans. Arctic sea ice maximum extent (coverage) was the lowest in the 38-year record. Extreme precipitation was also recurring theme this past year.

Surface fluctuates,
ocean warms more steadily,
seas continue rise.

The State of the Climate in 2017 was recently published in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This report is led by NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information and is based on contributions from more than 500 scientists representing over 65 countries around the world. It is the most comprehensive annual summary of Earth’s climate and provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable extreme weather events and other environmental data collected from locations on land, water, ice, and in space. 

Principal investigators from PMEL’s Carbon, Arctic and Large Scale Ocean Physics programs contributed to sections on the global ocean carbon cycle, ocean heat content and arctic air temperature. Dr. Greg Johnson served as the editor for the Global Oceans chapter for the third consecutive year. 

Access the full BAMS State of the Climate in 2017 report here.

See visual highlights on NOAA

offsite link

June 28, 2018
Four saildrones ready for deployment in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

Four saildrones ready for deployment in Dutch Harbor, Alaska. to conduct ocean acidification and fisheries research in the Arctic Ocean. Photo credit; Saildrone, Inc. 

July 02, 2018

Over the last week, Saildrone Inc. and NOAA have launched the first batch of saildrones in Alaska and the Washington coast to enhance our understanding of fisheries, ocean acidification and climate science.

Four of these saildrones launched from Dutch Harbor, Alaska this past weekend and will make their way northward, surveying more than 20,000 miles through Bering Strait and into the Arctic Ocean to measure atmospheric and surface ocean conditions, carbon dioxide in the ocean, and the abundance of Arctic cod.  Arctic cod is a key component of the Arctic marine ecosystem as a food source for seabirds, ringed seals, narwhals, belugas and other fish. These two missions will gather measurements to identify ongoing changes to the Arctic ecosystem and how changes may affect the food-chain as well as large-scale climate and weather systems.

Last year was the first time the drones journeyed through the Bering Strait into the Arctic with a newly adapted system to measure carbon dioxide concentrations. Jessica Cross, NOAA Oceanographer at PMEL, continues to use saildrones to study how the Arctic Ocean is absorbing carbon dioxide to help improve weather and climate forecasting and our understanding of ocean acidification in these critical ecosystem areas.

Alex De Robertis, NOAA Fisheries Biologist with Alaska Fisheries Science Center, is mapping fish with sound to determine the amount and distribution of Arctic cod. Two drones will survey the same remote locations as previous ship-based surveys in hopes of demystifying the story of Arctic cod as temperatures and ice cover change in the Arctic. “We are trying to unravel the puzzle of what happens to the young Arctic cod that are so abundant in the summer on the Chukchi shelf,” says De Robertis. “There are many young-of the year Arctic cod in this area, but comparatively few adults. They either move to other areas or don’t survive the winter. What is their fate?”

These two missions will continue to further demonstrate the operation of these platforms at high-latitudes through the first fully autonomous acoustic fish survey and field tests of an updated carbon dioxide system that was re-designed to address challenges observed during the 2017 mission.

NOAA and Saildrone, Inc. are embarking on the fifth year of collaboration and novel data collection using saildrones to better understand how changes in the ocean are affecting weather, climate, fisheries and marine mammals.

Read more about all the NOAA Saildrone missions this summer here:

Follow along with the Arctic missions on this blog:

Read more about the West Coast Fisheries survey here:

Learn more about what we did in previous Alaska surveys:

PMEL Follow the Saildrone 2017
NOAA Fisheries video on 2017 mission
2017 Fur Seal Blog by Carey Kuhn
NOAA Saildrone Research 2016 – Live YouTube Broadcast Recording
2016 Press release and Press Conference
Tracking Technology: the Science of Finding Whales: Video interview with Jessica Crance
2016 Fur Seal Blog by Carey Kuhn

PMEL Project: 

May 23, 2018
Engineers and scientists sitting together discussing the first phases of the mission.

Engineers and scientists of the 2016 Saildrone Team discussing the first phases of the summer mission in the Bering Sea.

May 23, 2018

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. 

February 05, 2018
Image of the Willamette River and Fremont Brige in Portland, Oregon

Image of the Willamette River in Portland, OR where the Ocean Sciences Meeting will take place. 

February 05, 2018

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

January 18, 2018
Image from the US library of Congress of US Navy steam frigate USS Wabash

US Navy steam frigate USS Wabash, shown under steam and sail, lithograph based on painting by William N. Maull. Published by Shearman and Hart, 1865-67. During the Civil War, Wabash served as the flagship to Atlantic Blockading Squadron then the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

January 18, 2018

On Wednesday, January 4, 2018, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation publicly announced that 14 projects have been selected for the 2017 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives awards. One of the funded projects, Seas of Knowledge: Digitization and Retrospective Analysis of the Historical Logbooks of the United States Navy, is led by Kevin Wood, research scientist with the University of Washington Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean and NOAA PMEL. This new grant will allow these scientists to learn more about past climate from the records of long-gone mariners. The project will digitize the logbooks, muster rolls and related materials from U.S. naval vessels, focusing on the period from 1861 to 1879. Access to historical data is essential for understanding both past and current events, especially in the ocean domain where important geospatial, environmental, and social/cultural data are found only in manuscript formats inaccessible to computers.

After making digital images of the logbooks housed at the National Archives, the project will recover ships’ positions, weather records, oceanographic data and other historical information through the Old Weather citizen-science program that trains volunteers to transcribe the logs’ handwritten entries. So far volunteers have transcribed more than 3 million new-to-science weather records, and more than 1 million of those have been quality-checked and added into global climate databases. This historic weather and climate data helps scientists better understand modern climate change patterns and improve prediction. The new effort seeks to fill a gap in the data of past weather and ocean conditions.

The project will also digitize the National Archives’ related collection of muster rolls that shows the names of all the enlisted sailors on board. When combined with logbooks that list the names of officers, this will provide historians and family researchers an online database of unprecedented detail and a window into day-to-day life during this period in history, Wood said. The grant also will support an educational effort that will allow the public to explore the information uncovered in the ships’ logbooks through an interactive exhibit.

Other investigators on the project are Mark Mollan at the National Archives and Records Administration, Patrick Madden at the National Archives Foundation and, Gilbert Compo at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado and NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory. 

This is the third group of projects to win a Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives award, which is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The program supports the creation of digital representations of unique content of high scholarly significance that will be discoverable and usable as elements of a coherent, national collection. 

Read the full story here written by Hannah Hickey, science writer for the University of Washington, on the latest development in the Old Weather project. 

PMEL Project: 

December 12, 2017

The 2017 Arctic Report Card was released today, December 12, at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. The NOAA-led Arctic Report Card, now in its 12th year, delivers the latest in peer-reviewed, actionable environmental information on this important region, which is warming at twice the rate of anywhere on Earth. PMEL’s Dr. James Overland is one of four editors of the report card which brings together the work of 85 scientists from 12 countries to provide the latest information on multiple measures of Arctic environmental change such as sea ice, temperature, and permafrost.

In 2017, average annual air temperature was the second highest on record after 2016 with a temperature of 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 Celsius) above the average for 1981 to 2010. While 2017 saw fewer records shattered than in 2016, the Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it was decades ago. The current observed rate of sea ice decline and warming temperatures are higher than at any other time in the last 1,500 years, and likely longer than that. This year’s maximum winter sea ice area, measured each March, was the lowest ever observed, while this year’s minimum area, measured each September, was eighth-lowest on record. Sea ice is also getting thinner each year, with year-old ice comprising 79 percent of coverage, and multi-year ice just 21 percent compared to 45 percent in 1985. 

You can watch the recorded press conference here which was led by RDML Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., USN Ret. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

Read the NOAA Press Release here and the complete 2017 Arctic Report Card here

PMEL Project: 
November 02, 2017
Map of the study area and reference zones for freeze onset

Study area and reference zones for freeze onset (a), Sea Surface Temperature (SST) (b), and ALAMO deployment area (c). AXBT and radiometer SST data were collected over the region between Bering Strait and the northern shelf break. Reference area (a) was selected because of the availability of oceanographic moorings and ship-based CTD data along the PMEL Icy Cape and Distributed Biological Observatory lines that will be available for data validation and other future research.  

November 02, 2017

PMEL is initiating an experimental sea ice fall freeze-up outlook for northern Alaskan waters.  The 2017 freeze onset on the Chukchi Sea continental shelf northwest of Icy Cape will begin near the end of November to the first week of December. This is approximately 36 days later than the long-term observed mean (1981-2016).

PMEL researchers with the Arctic Heat Open Science Experiment Based used observations from Air-Launched Autonomous Micro-Observer (ALAMO) floats, deployed in the summers of 2016 and 2017, Airborne EXpendable BathyThermograph (AXBT) arrays deployed in the region that measure ocean temperature as a function of depth from aircraft, and satellite data to project when sea ice freeze up will occur in the Chukchi Sea in 2017.

Float data reveal in real time the presence of ocean heat not detectable by satellite, and provide continuous monitoring of transport, water column stability, and cooling rate. This information is not otherwise available from other observing systems.

Read more about the rationale and data used here. For more information and data, visit the Arctic Heat website:

PMEL Project: 

October 03, 2017
Oculus Coastal Glider Dyson Recovery 2017

Oculus Coastal Glider being recovered by the crew of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson. 

October 03, 2017

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.


August 11, 2017
The image is of ocean surface temperature in 2016 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Despite the weakening 2015/16 El Niño event in 2016, the global average sea surface temperature in 2016 beat 2015 as the warmest year on record by a narrow margin. Image credit: NOAA map, adapted from Figure 3.1a in State of the Climate in 2016.

The image is of ocean surface temperature in 2016 compared to the 1981-2010 average. Despite the weakening 2015/16 El Niño event in 2016, the global average sea surface temperature in 2016 beat 2015 as the warmest year on record by a narrow margin. Image credit: NOAA map, adapted from Figure 3.1a in State of the Climate in 2016.

August 11, 2017

On August 10th, the State of the Climate in 2016 was published in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. This 27th annual report is based on contributions from more than 500 scientists representing over 60 countries around the world. It is the most comprehensive annual summary of Earth’s climate and provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events and other data collected from locations on land, water, ice, and in space.

PMEL, including JISAO and JIMAR, scientists contributed to sections on the global ocean carbon cycle, ocean heat content and arctic air temperature.

The new report confirmed that 2016 surpassed 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of recordkeeping. Several climate indicators also set new records in 2016, including greenhouse gas concentrations, sea level, and sea surface temperature. The Arctic also continued to warm with average Arctic land surface temperature 3.6°F (2.0°C) above the 1981-2010 average and sea ice extent and thickness remained low.

Dr. Gregory C. Johnson, PMEL oceanographer and editor for the ocean chapter, sums up in Haiku form: 

Large El Niño wanes,
east Pacific tropics cool,
seas shed heat, slow rise

Read the full report, press release and report highlights.