National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce

SOAR Phase I

SOAR Phase I

Progress in Oceanography cover

The first phase of the SOAR project culminated in a special issue of Progress in Oceanography, volume 136, published in August 2015.

Here we list highlights of the papers presented in the Phase I special issue—these highlights are also available on the Progress in Oceanography webpage.

Moore & Stabeno

  • Over the decade 2004-2013 dramatic environmental changes in the Pacific Arctic suggest a 'new normal' climate is emerging.
  • Variable advection and hydrographic processes are key influences on benthic hotspots for seabird and marine mammal predators.
  • Six bowhead whale core-use areas are identified, and body condition suggests bowheads are faring well despite sea ice loss.
  • The Arctic Marine Pulses (AMP) conceptual model aims to animate advection models and link to pelagic-benthic coupling models.

Wood et al.

  • Loss of multiyear sea ice resulted in an open-water dominated environment in summer.
  • Fluctuations in large-scale atmospheric circulation also affected the ecosystem.
  • Wider extremes of variability a hallmark of the 'new normal' in the Pacific Arctic.

Frey et al.

  • Satellite data reveal divergent patterns in sea ice cover across the Pacific Arctic.
  • We observe multi-year variability in sea ice cover in the Bering Sea.
  • We observe significant losses in summer sea ice in the Canada Basin and Beaufort Sea.
  • Sea ice variability is driven by both thermal and wind-driven processes.
  • Observations of sea ice provide critical insights for marine ecosystem productivity.

Wang & Overland

  • Sea ice decline faster in fall than in spring for the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
  • Future open-water duration may extend 1 more month by 2050.
  • Alaskan Arctic will remain sea ice covered from Jan. to May even after 2050.

Arrigo & van Dijken

  • Declines in sea ice cover in the Arctic Ocean can fundamentally alter marine ecosystems.
  • Annual NPP in the Arctic Ocean rose 30% between 1998 and 2012.
  • Increased NPP was associated with reduced sea ice extent and longer growing season.
  • Increased nutrient fluxes may also play an important role.

Mathis et al.

  • The intensity, extent and duration of ocean acidification in the coastal areas around Alaska will increase.
  • Important commercial and subsistence fisheries in Alaska are co-located where enhanced ocean acidification will occur.
  • Coastal human communities in southeast and southwest Alaska are highly reliant on fishery harvests.
  • Coastal human communities in southeast and southwest Alaska face the highest risk from ocean.

Grebmeier et al.

  • Benthic biomass "hotspot" areas persist over multiple decades in the Pacific Arctic Region.
  • A northward increase in benthic biomass has been observed for three of four benthic hotspots over time.
  • Variable advection and hydrographic processes are key influences on benthic hotspots.
  • Hotspot regions have concentrated prey for marine mammal and seabird benthivores.

Logerwell et al.

  • Chinook Salmon may be moving into the Arctic.
  • Nearshore is important habitat for forage fish (e.g., Pacific Herring and Capelin).
  • Nearshore is a nursery area for other species (e.g., Arctic Cod and Saffron Cod).
  • Commercially important gadids are present but not likely spawning in the Arctic.
  • Conceptual models of Arctic and Saffron Cod life history distribution are provided.

Crawford et al.

  • Ringed seals ≥1 year of age are eating more (%FO) Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida).
  • Ringed seals are growing faster, have thicker blubber, and females mature earlier.
  • Ringed seal growth and the proportion of pups harvested decreased with heavier ice.
  • Bearded seals ≥1 year of age are eating fewer (%FO) invertebrates (10 of 24 taxa).
  • Bearded seals have thicker blubber and females mature earlier now.

Divoky et al.

  • Black guillemot nestling diet affected by decadal loss of Arctic summer sea ice.
  • Arctic cod availability decreased with loss of sea ice and increased SST.
  • Guillemot nestling survival and condition decreased with loss of Arctic cod.
  • Adult guillemot overwinter survival showed no similar decadal temporal trend.
  • A decrease in arctic cod availability due to decreased ice extent and increasing SST has implications for the entire Arctic.

Lovvorn et al.

  • Four eider species that nest in the Arctic migrate through the Chukchi Sea.
  • The eiders' access to benthic prey is restricted to open water within sea ice.
  • Profitable prey densities occurred only in certain locations within the corridor.
  • Seasonal and interannual access to profitable feeding areas varies from 0 to 100%.
  • Eiders rely on having a range of profitable feeding areas along their migration route.

Kuletz et al.

  • Getis-Ord Gi* hotspot analysis was used to identify 40-km × 40-km cells with high relative abundance for seabirds and marine mammals.
  • Hotspots for seabirds, walrus, and gray whales occurred primarily in the Chukchi Sea.
  • Hotspots for bowhead whales and other pinnipeds (i.e., seals) occurred near Barrow Canyon and along the Beaufort Sea shelf and slope.
  • Hotspots for belugas occurred in both the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
  • Seabirds and marine mammals shared 3 hotspots in summer and 1 in fall; the mouth of Barrow Canyon was shared both seasons.

Citta et al.

  • We define core-use areas for Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort population bowhead whales.
  • We summarize diving behavior, sea ice, and oceanographic data for each area.
  • Core-use areas are co-located with oceanographic fronts and stratified layers.
  • Seasonal movements relate to the timing of the ascent and descent of zooplankton.
  • Whales feed seasonally in all three seas (Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort).

Clark et al.

  • Acoustic data: 6 groups, 20 recorders, 14 months, 2300 km, Bering to Beaufort seas.
  • Bowhead acoustics: dynamics of regional-seasonal occurrence-distribution.
  • Noise analysis: regional-seasonal mammal, ice, wind, human acoustic contributions.
  • Value: Initial large-scale synthesis of arctic marine acoustic environment.

MacIntyre et al.

  • Contemporary baseline of year-round distributions of vocalizing bearded seals.
  • Geographic variability in bearded seal call activity exists in Alaskan waters.
  • Bearded seal call activity was significantly correlated with sea ice conditions.
  • Reductions and variability in sea ice may negatively impact the behavioral ecology of bearded seals.

George et al.

  • Bowhead body condition is positively correlated with sea ice loss and wind-driven upwelling.
  • Average bowhead body condition increased over the period 1989 to 2011.
  • Bowhead population size is increasing rapidly and may be linked to increased ocean productivity.
  • No obvious negative effects from sea ice reduction on BCB bowheads detected to date.
  • Currently it's a "good time to be a bowhead" but their future is quite uncertain.

Harwood et al.

  • We summarize divergent trends in condition and/or production in five Beaufort Sea marine vertebrates.
  • Subadult bowhead whales and Arctic char have shown trends of increasing body condition.
  • Ringed seal, beluga, black guillemot chicks have shown a trend of declining condition, growth and/or production.
  • Continued research and monitoring are warranted at temporal and spatial scales relevant to the indicator species.
  • Important to use multi-species and multi-disciplinary approaches to identify and monitor ecosystem changes and causes.