What's New Archive
A recent perspective piece in Nature Climate Change by Jim Overland at PMEL and other scientists discusses the latest research on whether Arctic warming is fueling more severe winter weather in the mid-latitudes, the temperate zone of the Earth between the tropics and the Arctic, and the part of the United States where most Americans live.
Research conducted by a diverse, international group of scientists agree for the first time that the pattern of severe cold winters in the mid-latitudes is primarily based on the state of the jet stream, which is naturally variable. They also emphasize community coordination for both scientific progress and communication to a broader public. The group of researchers also agreed that there is no simple cause-and-effect relationship between a warming Arctic and an emerging pattern of severe winter weather in the mid-latitudes. It’s much more complicated, with different connections in different regions and under different background climate conditions.
In the summers of 2008–2010, Dr. Ned Cokelet added rugged instruments to NOAA bottom trawl survey nets on the eastern Bering Sea continental shelf – site of the nation’s most productive fisheries – to measure ocean temperature and salinity at over 350 locations. The results, released in Deep Sea Research II, provide the most comprehensive view to date of the three-dimensional thermohaline structure. Horizontal variations of the ocean’s mass density, computed from the temperature and salinity measurements, give the ocean currents shown by arrows in the accompanying figure for summer 2010. The flow was strongest west of the Pribilof and St. Matthew Islands, and there was clockwise circulation around St. Matthew Island. The upper layer of the ocean was mixed down to less than 30 m over much of the region, but reached depths greater than 70 m along the Alaska Peninsula. Upper-to-lower layer salinity differences contributed more than temperature to density differences over most of the region. These observations enhance our understanding of plankton and fish-larval transport and can serve to calibrate predictive computer models of the ecosystem.
The PMEL Arctic Heat research team, including cooperative institute (JISAO) scientists, in front of NOAA Twin Otter during the first flight in June. From left to right: LT Alex Johnston, co-pilot; Dr Kevin Wood, lead scientist; LT Shanae Coker, aircraft commander; Leah Chomiak, Hollings Scholar; Alex Ekholm, WHOI engineer; Jeff Smith, scientific systems engineer.
September 10 – 20: The Arctic Heat Team has been making their way from Barrow, AK to Kotzebue on a specially-outfitted NOAA Twin Otter aircraft. Over the 10 day mission, the team is launching traditional atmospheric and oceanographic probes as well as the experimental Air-Launched Autonomous Micro-Observer (ALAMO) floats into the Chukchi Sea. Four ALAMO floats were deployed in June 2016 in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. These floats will continue to collect data on upper ocean temperatures throughout the year.
The team on this mission includes: Kevin Wood and Nick Bond from UW/JISAO and NOAA/PMEL, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s engineer Alex Ekholm, and LTJG Kevin Doremus as the Aircraft Commander.
Watch a video of the team launching various floats during the first deployments on YouTube.
On September 3, after three months of collecting data in the Bering Sea, the two Saildrones have been safely recovered. The Saildrones each traveled almost 3000 nautical miles in 101 days. After arriving in Dutch Harbor, AK, the Saildrones were packed into a container and shipped to their home base in San Francisco, CA. Data from the tested technologies for fish and marine mammal acoustics are expected mid-September with preliminary analysis completed around the New Year.
This was a collaborative mission between the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, Saildrone, Inc., Simrad AS/Kongsberg Maritime, Greeneridge Sciences, Inc, and Wildlife Computers.
Continue to follow the Saildrone on the Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration page to learn more about upcoming events and preliminary results in the weeks and months to come.
The State of the Climate in 2015 report, published August 2016 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events and other environmental data. The report was compiled by 460 scientists, including several PMEL, JISAO and JIMAR scientists. These scientists contributed to sections on the global ocean carbon cycle, ocean heat content and arctic air temperature.
This year’s report has an emphasis on ecosystems, specifically how a changing climate impacts living systems. The report confirmed that 2015 beat 2014 as the warmest year (about 1.0°C warmer) since preindustrial times and that the Mauna Loa observatory recorded its first annual mean carbon dioxide concentration greater than 400 ppm. This year’s exceptional warmth was fueled in part by a nearly year-round mature El Niño event.
Greg Johnson, who co-edited the Global Ocean’s chapter, wrote a haiku summarizing Earth’s climate in 2015:
El Niño waxes,
warm waters shoal, flow eastward,
Earth’s fever rises.
Presentation by Jim Overland (NOAA/PMEL) and Muyin Wang. (JISAO/UW)
There were extensive record Arctic temperature extremes in January and February 2016 that continued into April. For January, the Arctic-wide averaged temperature anomaly was 2.0 °C above the previous record of 3.0 °C based on four Reanalysis products.
Two regions of low geopotential height were seen as a major split in the tropospheric polar vortex over the Arctic. Warm air advection north of Alaska and central Eurasia reinforced the ridge that split the flow near the North Pole and contributed to the persistence. 2016 shows that there can be major Arctic contributions from midlatitudes.
Whether Arctic amplification feedbacks are accelerated by the combination of recent thinner, more mobile Arctic sea ice and occasional extreme atmospheric circulation events from midlatitudes is an interesting conjecture.
NOTE: Unfortunately, recording starts about 30 seconds after Jim started speaking.
PMEL scientists from the Ecosystems and Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations (EcoFOCI) program attended the first Principal Investigator meeting for the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB)’s five-year Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (Arctic IERP) in Anchorage, Alaska on June 20-23.
This historic Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Research Program will study the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas during spring through fall to better understand how changes in physical environmental drivers influence the structure and function of the biological system and access to subsistence resources. The EcoFOCI team (comprised of PMEL, AFSC, JISAO, and Bigelow Laboratory scientists) will lead the Oceanography and Lower Trophic Level Productivity portion of the program under the direction of Carol Ladd. The field seasons for this project are planned to begin in spring 2017 through the fall of 2019.
The goals of the meeting were to introduce the funded projects, discuss how these projects are connected, identify any gaps, come to a consensus on the overarching hypothesis for the integrated research, introduce PI's from other Arctic projects that may integrate with the Arctic IERP research, and discuss the framework for integration, data management, and communication/outreach during the project.
This summer, NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab is mentoring six undergraduate Hollings scholars and one NSF research experience for undergraduates (REU) student. These students come from all over the United States and all have a passion for the marine environment. The summer internships provide each student with hands-on research experience as they work closely with a mentor. This year, the undergraduates are placed in the Acoustics, Arctic, Carbon, Ocean Climate Stations, Atmospheric Chemistry and Large Scale Ocean Physics groups and are located in Seattle, WA and Newport, OR.
We are very excited to have this year’s cohort: Abigail Birnbaum, Leah Chomiak, Allison Hogikyan, Gabriella Kalbach, Cordelia Sanborn-Marsh, Meghan Shea, and Audrey Taylor. Read more about each Hollings Scholar and our NSF-REU student on our education page.
On June 5th, the Arctic Heat Open Science Experiment (Arctic Heat) began over the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, in the Alaskan Arctic, to collect data to support sea ice and weather forecasting. PMEL will be leading flights aboard a specially-outfitted NOAA Twin Otter aircraft that will be operating during the summer to launch autonomous floats, MRV’s Air-Launched Autonomous Micro-Observer “ALAMO”, and to rapidly collect data over a wide area.
The Chukchi Sea and other seasonally ice-free marginal seas are among the most challenging regions to study because for much of the year the sea ice is not stable enough to deploy equipment on and it can easily wreak havoc on most instruments in the water. Ships and satellites only provide limited access to this domain, and so the progress of research is impeded by the lack of observations.
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, and the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) at the University of Washington.
Through September, PMEL and Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) are testing innovative technologies to survey the Bering Sea. PMEL is once again utilizing the Saildrone, a solar and wind powered unmanned autonomous vehicle developed by Saildrone Inc., as a research platform. Two Saildrones launched from Dutch Harbor, AK on May 23, each equipped with suites of meteorological and oceanographic sensors, plus specially developed echo sounders and modified whale acoustic hydrophones.
Following the successful 2015 oceanographic field trials, the 2016 mission combines both physical and biological oceanography to seek out new ways to supplement traditional vessel-based research. Oceanographic and fisheries data will be validated to the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson and PMEL moorings.
Follow along with the saildrone on the Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration site.