Scientists have made a biological discovery in Arctic Ocean waters as dramatic and unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert. A NASA-sponsored expedition punched through three-foot thick sea ice to find waters richer in microscopic marine plants, or phytoplankton blooms, essential to all sea life, than any other ocean region on Earth.
The discovery is the result of an oceanographic expedition called ICESCAPE, or Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment. The NASA-sponsored mission explored the seas along Alaska’s western and northern coasts onboard a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker during the summers of 2010 and 2011. The finding reveals a new consequence of the Arctic’s warming climate and provides an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology.