What's New Archive
The 2023 June Arctic Airborne Investigations and Research crew consisted of staff from NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operations and University of Washington. They flew over the Southern and Central Chukchi Sea and coordinated overflights with R/V Sikuliaq.
From left to right: Denise Miller (OMAO), Sarah Cozart (OMAO), Nicholas Underwood (OMAO), Jiaxu Zhang (UW/CICOES and NOAA PMEL), Michael Steele (UW/APL), and Zheng Liu (UW/APL). Photo credit: Brent Schoumaker (OMAO)
NOAA and partner scientists recently completed two successful field tests in the US Arctic merging new technologies and traditional ship surveys to assess real-time phytoplankton species distributions in response to surface warming.
The rapid warming of the Arctic Ocean has led to earlier sea ice retreats in spring and later arrivals in fall. This shift has prompted significant changes in phytoplankton communities, which is a critical measurement to understand ecosystem health.
In June 2023, 60 nautical miles of flights were coordinated with a research ship operating in the survey region to use a multispectral camera, the first of its kind. This provided an opportunity for scientists to distinguish phytoplankton species and physical characteristics in the Chukchi Sea.
The team from NOAA and the University of Washington tested a cutting-edge imaging system, to observe distributions of phytoplankton from the NOAA Twin Otter using a hyperspectral camera. The camera uses a sensor that takes many pixelated images that translate to an absorption spectrum based on the colors the phytoplankton reflects. The hyperspectral camera uses reflectiveness of the ocean to identify species and how much area they cover. It can be used to identify phytoplankton groups based on their pigment information. This emerging research method alongside the upcoming launch of the NASA PACE satellite may allow scientists to assess biodiversity in the ocean and in food webs and detect water quality issues such as harmful algal blooms (HABs).
This September 2023, additional flights were coordinated with the NOAA Arctic & Ecosystem Research Cruise on the R/V Sikuliaq to enable comparisons between the aircraft and ocean measurements. Adding in hyperspectral data provides a trifecta of sources to support monitoring of phytoplankton in the region. Satellite imagery can detect possible algal blooms, and ship-based samples can capture images in which species can be identified.
The combination of these technologies may provide the groundwork for the monitoring and managing of algal blooms in the US Arctic.
A typhoon, smoke from wildfires and increasing rain are not what most imagine when thinking of the Arctic. Yet these are some of the climate-driven events included in NOAA’s 2022 Arctic Report Card, which provides a detailed picture of how warming is reshaping the once reliably frozen, snow-covered region which is heating up faster than any other part of the world.
This year’s Arctic Report Card also features the most comprehensive chapter in the annual report’s 17-year history about how these dramatic environmental changes are felt by Arctic Indigenous people, and how their communities are addressing the changes. Additionally, a chapter on precipitation has been added reflecting an improvement in available data and showing the dramatic increase in precipitation across the Arctic in recent decades.
Surface Air Temperature
PMEL Arctic researcher's Dr. James Overland and Dr. Muyin Wang contributed to sections on surface air temperature. Arctic annual air temperatures from October 2021 to September 2022 were the sixth warmest dating back to 1900, continuing a decades-long trend in which Arctic air temperatures have warmed faster than the global average. The Arctic's seven warmest years since 1900 have been the last seven years.
Winter temperatures in the Eurasian Arctic and Arctic Ocean were above normal, while winter temperatures over most of North America were below-normal.
An extensive region of low pressure in the eastern Arctic supported warm Eurasian and Arctic Ocean winter temperatures, while low pressure across the Alaska Arctic and northern Canada sustained warm summer temperatures over the Beaufort Sea and Canadian Archipelago.
About the Report Card
The report card is compiled by 147 experts from 11 nations and includes three sections: Vital Signs, Indicators and Frostbites. Vital Signs provide annual updates on key topics. Indicators explore topics that are periodically updated, and Frostbites report on new and emerging issues.
Modified from the original NOAA Press Release.
NOAA’s 2021 Arctic Report Card, released today at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting, documents the numerous ways that climate change continues to fundamentally alter this once reliably-frozen region, as increasing heat and the loss of ice drive its transformation into a warmer, less frozen, and more uncertain future.
The Arctic continues to warm more than twice as fast as the rest of the globe. The October-December 2020 period was the warmest Arctic autumn on record dating back to 1900. The average surface air temperature over the Arctic this past year (October 2020-September 2021) was the 7th warmest on record.
The total extent of sea ice in September 2021 was the 12th lowest on record. All 15 of the lowest minimum extents have occurred in the last 15 years. The substantial decline in Arctic ice extent since 1979 is one of the most iconic indicators of climate change.
Some of the fastest rates of ocean acidification around the world have been observed in the Arctic Ocean. Two recent studies indicate a high occurrence of severe dissolution of shells in natural populations of sea snails, an important forage species, in the Bering Sea and Amundsen Gulf.
The Arctic Report Card is an original, peer-reviewed environmental observations and analysis that documents rapid and dramatic shifts in weather, climate, terrestrial and oceanic conditions in the circumpolar region. This year’s report was compiled by 111 scientists from 12 nations. PMEL and UW Cooperative Institute scientists contributed to sections on surface air temperature (Dr. James Overland, Dr. Muyin Wang), sea ice (Dr. Kevin Wood) and on ocean acidification (Dr. Jessica Cross, Dr. Darren Pilcher).
After spending 8 months under water and ice, two of NOAA’s three Arctic-deployed pop-up floats have successfully surfaced in the Chukchi Sea and are transmitting data on temperature, pressure, photosynthetic active radiation (PAR), and chlorophyll fluorescence. These data are from measurements taken while the float is anchored to the seafloor, while it rises through the water column, and while it is trapped under the ice at the water-ice boundary.
The two floats were initially deployed in the fall of 2020 by the scientists and crew of NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson. These are part of the 4th cohort of deployments since 2017, and the second cohort deployed in the Chukchi Sea. The first float to surface has transmitted data from the four months it spent on the seafloor, just over a month of data from when it was trapped under ice, and about half of the photos it took while under ice. The second float has transmitted about five months of data from the seafloor, just over four months of data from under the ice along with the under-ice photos it captured, and 7 days of open ocean sea surface temperature.
Pop-up floats provide an inexpensive method to explore a unique micro-ecosystem under floating ice. The floats collect ocean health data to help researchers better understand the rapidly changing Arctic ecosystem. They collect data during the ice-covered winter and spring months, a time during which it isn’t possible for researchers to penetrate the ice from above to study the water underneath. The water column data they collect on their rise up from seafloor to surface is essential for researchers to monitor ongoing ecosystem changes in the Arctic, such as watching for harmful algal blooms and documenting biodiversity in the environment. The floats can also help researchers measure the extent of the cold pool, an area of cold water about 30 meters deep that results from melting Arctic ice from the previous season.
NOAA PMEL began development of these floats in 2015. The float is an orange sphere equipped with sensors to measure temperature, pressure, and other ocean conditions as well as cameras to capture under ice imagery. It is deployed during the ice-free summer months and anchors to the seafloor measuring bottom-ocean conditions. It stays here collecting measurements throughout the winter and early spring. It then rises up through the water column at a pre-programmed time, in this case early March to mid-April, capturing data at various depths to create a profile of the water column. The floats are then trapped under ice when it reaches the surface, and will continue collecting data and images of conditions at the water-ice boundary. When the ice melts in mid-May and early June, the floats can emerge fully from the ice to reach the surface and begin transmitting their stored data, while continuing to monitor sea surface temperature.
NOAA’s 15th Arctic Report Card catalogs for 2020 the numerous ways that climate change continues to disrupt the polar region, with second-highest air temperatures and second-lowest summer sea ice driving a cascade of impacts, including the loss of snow and extraordinary wildfires in northern Russia. The sustained transformation to a warmer, less frozen and biologically changed Arctic remains clear.
The average annual land-surface air temperature in the Arctic measured between October 2019 and September 2020 was the second-warmest since record-keeping began in 1900, and was responsible for driving a cascade of impacts across Arctic ecosystems during the year. Nine of the past 10 years saw air temperatures at least 1 degree C above (2.2 degrees F) the 1981-2010 mean. Arctic temperatures for the past six years have all exceeded previous records.Record warm temperatures in the Eurasian Arctic were associated with extreme conditions in the ocean and on the land.
Sea ice loss in spring 2020 was particularly early in the East Siberian Sea and Laptev Sea regions, setting new record lows in the Laptev Sea for June. The end of summer sea ice extent in 2020 was the second lowest in the 42-year satellite record, with 2012 being the record minimum year. Overall thickness of the sea ice cover is also decreasing as Arctic ice has transformed from an older, thicker, and stronger ice mass to a younger, thinner more fragile ice mass in the past decade.
PMEL’s Dr. James Overland, Dr. Muyin Wang (UW/CICOES), and Dr. Kevin Wood (UW/CICOES) contributed to sections on surface air temperature and sea ice. Dr. Overland is one of three founding editors of the Arctic Report Card and served as a co-editor from 2006 - 2017. Read the full interview about his work in the Arctic and with the Arctic Report Card.
The Arctic Report Card is an annual compilation of original, peer-reviewed environmental observations and analyses of a region undergoing rapid and dramatic alterations to weather, climate, oceanic, and land conditions. Compiled by 133 scientists from 15 countries, the 2020 report card tracks environmental indicators to inform decisions by local, state and federal leaders confronting a rapidly changing climate and ecosystems.
Read the original NOAA Press Release.
After 8 months of sitting on the seafloor, PMEL’s latest engineering development, the Flotation Controllable Ocean Mooring (FCOM) system successfully resurfaced in July. Over the last two years, PMEL has been developing a profiling mooring for use in Arctic regions that submerges when ice arrives in the fall and refloats in the spring after ice retreat. The FCOM system has a surface float that is anchored to the ocean floor, and includes a Prawler that moves up and down the mooring line collecting profiles of temperature, salinity, chlorophyll, and dissolved oxygen. This innovation will provide real-time information of the full water column during the entire open water (sea ice free) season.
The Chukchi Sea is an ice-driven system. Collecting data during the spring and fall is crucial for monitoring ecosystem production and generating ice forecasts. Data collection during spring and fall is difficult as there are few vessels in the region during those times, and moorings must be placed near the seafloor to avoid ice keels which prevents real time data return on the status of the full water column. Prior to FCOMs, surface floats could only sample for a short period because deployment and recovery were dependent upon the tight scheduling of research vessels. This mooring addresses these long-standing science gaps.
The mooring was originally deployed from the R/V Ocean Starr in spring of 2019 in the Chukchi Sea with pre-programmed dates to sink and resurface. It sank in October 2019, resurfaced in July 2020 and will be recovered in September. The next version of FCOM will be outfitted with a hydrophone and ice-detection algorithms so that it can resurface after ice retreats without having a pre-programmed date. Ultimately, the FCOM with a Prawler is intended to be integrated into NOAA’s Arctic observing system.
Two saildrones in the Pacific Ocean just west of the Golden Gate Bridge at the start of their journey. Photo Credit: Saildrone, Inc.
Three saildrones left Alameda, California in May and have arrived at Unimak Pass in Alaska’s remote Aleutian Islands. The ocean drones have sailed nearly 2,700 miles at a walking pace, about 2.5 miles per hour (2 knots), which is just about the distance from Seattle to Miami. Once they navigate through the pass, the saildrones will enter the Bering Sea. This is where they will conduct a two month-long acoustic survey of walleye pollock to collect some critically needed data to support management of the nation’s largest commercial fishery for Alaska pollock. They are expected to reach their first survey station in about a week and will cover roughly the same area normally covered by standard research vessels.
The data the drones collect will help to fill in the gap for fisheries stock assessment scientists who monitor the changes in pollock populations to advise fisheries management. The sonar measurements made by the ocean drones will provide valuable insights on pollock abundance and distribution in 2020.
The mission is led by NOAA's Alaska Fisheries Science Center with scientists at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory processing the oceanographic and meteorological data in real time. Data will be made available to weather forecasts center worldwide via the World Meteorological Organization's Global Telecommunication System (GTS) so that these observations can be incorporated into weather predictions. PMEL, AFSC and Saildrone have collaborated on several missions in the Arctic since 2015 to develop the vehicle’s capabilities and refine the sensors.
PMEL, AFSC and Saildrone have collaborated on several missions in the Arctic since 2015 to develop the vehicle’s capabilities and refine the sensors.
The US Arctic and Bering Sea are big, remote, and harsh environments. PMEL's Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration program and Engineering Development Division have been developing autonomous technologies and tools to collect critical data to better understand changes in the oceans and its impact on food security, sea ice forecasts, weather and climate.
Drones and gliders are not designed for ice edge and can offer a new perspective on Arctic science, exploring new areas of the Arctic Ocean. One critical area of study is the melting edge of the seasonal ice pack. The timing and speed of annual ice retreat is changing each year, and could have a big impact on ecosystems and global weather patterns. PMEL is pushing the envelope to further develop gliders and drones to advance the science near the ice edge to explore how it moves and changes.
Check out the video on our YouTube Channel to learn more about NOAA PMEL’s autonomous observing technology in the Arctic: https://youtu.be/A_
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.
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.