‘Not enough ice to make a margarita’
Scientists aboard the Russian research vessel Professor Khromov spent the weekend collecting samples of water, sealife and ocean-floor mud at a spot in the western Arctic Ocean that in most years would be covered with sea ice.
The ship, carrying researchers for the six-week RUSALCA expedition, was in its most northerly planned sampling stop, or “station,” a location nearly 350 miles (563 km) northwest of Barrow, Alaska. During the mission’s last cruise in 2004, the most northerly accessible location was 345 miles (555 km) south of the weekend’s station.
Mission coordinator Kevin Wood, of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, writes from the ship that the water is open on all sides. “There isn’t enough ice here to make a margarita,” Wood said.
The joint U.S.-Russian expedition is carrying out research to gauge the effects of global warming on the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea through the end of the month.
The U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported last week that the Arctic’s sea ice thawed to its third smallest on record. This is up slightly from from the last two years, but continues an overall decline that is symptomatic of climate change. The smallest summer ice pack on record was in 2007.
Dredging the sea floor, researchers scooped up small tube-like organisms that resemble plastic cocktail stirs. So far, they have yet to be identified, Wood said.
The Khromov is preparing now to steam another 46 miles (74 km) to where radar images show the ice edge to be.