Bizarre Arctic discovery baffles NASA scientists (+video)
Scientists funded by NASA have uncovered a massive algae bloom flourishing beneath thick Arctic ice, radically altering our understanding of Arctic ecosystems.
Imagine finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert. That is how NASA scientists are equating a new biological discovery in Arctic Ocean. Microscopic plants called phytoplankton are actively growing under the thinning Arctic ice. In fact, the scientists say the phytoplankton growth in the Arctic may now be richer than any other ocean region on Earth. The finding reveals a new consequence of the Arctic’s warming climate, and gives researchers an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology.
“If someone had asked me before the expedition whether we would see under-ice blooms, I would have told them it was impossible,” said Kevin Arrigo of Stanford University, leader of the ICESCAPE mission and lead author of the new study. “This discovery was a complete surprise.”
ICESCAPE, stand for Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment and in 2010 and 2011, scientists explored Arctic waters in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas along Alaska’s western and northern coasts onboard a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker. The researchers drilled down through three-foot thick sea ice to study impacts of environmental variability and change in the Arctic on the ocean biology, ecology and biogeochemistry.