Combined Swedish-U.S. Expertise to Study the Amundsen Sea

Written by on September 15, 2009 in Marine Life, Other News, Technology

A team of international scientists will work together on a new study of the open water and ice-covered regions of the Amundsen Sea to understand the physical, chemical, and biological interactions that make this region the most biologically productive of any waters adjacent to the Antarctic continent and how the system might change in the face of future increases in regional temperature and in the rate of Antarctic glacier melting.

Amundsen Sea and Bellingshausen Sea, Antarctica - Courtesy of NASA

Amundsen Sea and Bellingshausen Sea, Antarctica - Courtesy of NASA

The Amundsen Sea in the Southern Ocean and western Antarctica is mostly covered by an average 3 km (2 miles) thick ice sheet and therefore one of the most extreme and poorly studied ocean environments on Earth. 

Sea ice is formed over a period of time that can stretch from months to years.  It starts as very thin sheets of ice that form when temperatures are low enough and when the water moves very little.  This ice is constantly forming and breaking up, eventually forming thicker layers and helping to attach larger pieces of ice together to form ice sheets.

Scientists from Rutgers, Robert Sherell and Oscar Schofield, from the University of Georgia, Patricia Yager, the Marine Biological Lab, Hugh Ducklow and the University of California at Santa Cruz, Sharon Stammerjohn, and a Swedish research team will carry out the study aboard the U.S. research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer and the Swedish icebreaker Oden.  The group combine science expertise in physics, trace metals, metal chemistry, carbon chemistry, phytoplankton biology, bacteria and zooplankton ecology.

Rutgers also will deploy robotic gliders that will survey the region, like the RU17 we wrote about in our article “AUV Glides Across The Atlantic Underwater” and that are managed out of the International Coalition of Ocean Observing Laboratories (I-COOL).  The robotic surveys will be guided by undergraduate involvement conducted directly from the New Brunswick campus. 

Aside from the capabilities the two research ships already bring along, the team will have additional technology as this proposal will also fund shipboard sampling equipment specifically designed for collecting uncontaminated seawater samples for trace metal analysis.

Amundsen Sea at 3am on a December day - Credit: Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences

Amundsen Sea at 3am on a December day - Credit: Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences

Copyright ©  2009 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC

About the Author

About the Author: Celia is Director of Business Operations for OceanLines LLC and is a frequent contributor to both OceanLines and Marine Science Today. She is a certified diver and her favorite topic is marine biology, especially stories about whales. .

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