Navigation Links
NOAA: Tagged narwhals track warming near Greenland

In a research paper published online Saturday in the Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans, a publication of the American Geological Union (AGU), scientists reported the southern Baffin Bay off West Greenland has continued warming since wintertime ocean temperatures were last effectively measured there in the early 2000s.

Temperatures in the study were collected by narwhals, medium-sized toothed Arctic whales, during NOAA-sponsored missions in 2006 and 2007. The animals were tagged with sensors that recorded ocean depths and temperatures during feeding dives from the surface pack ice to the seafloor, going as deep as 1,773 meters, or more than a mile.

Scientists have had limited opportunities to measure ocean temperatures in Baffin Bay during winter months because of dense ice and harsh conditions. Cost is also a factor it requires millions of dollars to mount a conventional expedition using an ice-breaking vessel and other specialized equipment and people. As a result, for the past decade, researchers used climatology data consisting of long-term historical average observations rather than direct ocean temperature measurements for winter temperatures in the area.

The published study reported that highest winter ocean temperature measurements in 2006 and 2007 from both narwhals and additional sensors deployed using helicopters ranged between 4 and 4.6 degrees Celsius (39.2 and 40.3 degrees Fahrenheit). The study also found that temperatures were on average nearly a degree Celsius warmer than climatology data. Whale-collected temperatures also demonstrated the thickness of the winter surface isothermal layer, a layer of constant temperature, to be 50 to 80 meters less than that reported in the climatology data.

"Narwhals proved to be highly efficient and cost-effective 'biological oceanographers,' providing wintertime data to fill gaps in our understanding of this important ocean area," said Kristin Laidre from the Polar Science Center in the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory. "Their natural behavior makes them ideal for obtaining ocean temperatures during repetitive deep vertical dives. This mission was a 'proof-of-concept' that narwhal-obtained data can be used to make large-scale hydrographic surveys in Baffin Bay and to extend the coverage of a historical database into the poorly sampled winter season."

Greenland's coast is a gateway for fresh water from melting polar ice flowing south to the Labrador Shelf, ultimately reaching the North Atlantic Current. The Arctic flow's effect on the current is critical for understanding the impacts of a changing Arctic on the transference of heat globally from the equator to higher latitudes.

Laidre was lead scientist on the NOAA-sponsored missions and is lead author of the paper. "Continued warming will likely have pronounced effects on the species and ecosystem in Baffin Bay and may eventually affect sea ice coverage in the region, which in recent years has already retreated significantly," she said. "The timing of the break-up of spring sea ice is ecologically important for many marine species and is linked to primary production that forms the base of the food chain."

NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research funded the missions in 2006 and 2007 to tag and track narwhals as they made a fall migration from northwest Greenland to their wintering grounds in Baffin Bay. During that time and in an earlier mission, 14 adult narwhals were tagged with sensors to record date and time, ocean temperature and depth information. The data were automatically sent to a satellite when the narwhals surfaced for air between cracks in the sea ice. Tagging was carried out in accordance with the University of Washington's Animal Care Guidelines and a permit issued by the Government of Greenland. Each sensor tag provided up to seven months of data before falling off the animal.


Contact: Keeley Belva
NOAA Headquarters

Related biology news :

1. Novel antitoxin strategy developed using tagged binding agents
2. Case Western Reserve University researchers track Chernobyl fallout
3. Paleozoic sediment curve provides new tool for tracking sea-floor sediment movements
4. Tracking down the cause of mad cow disease
5. Fingerprinting method tracks mercury emissions from coal
6. Scientists achieve first tracking of salmon from headwaters in Rockies through Pacific to Alaska
7. Oral rinses used for tracking HPV-positive head and neck cancers holds promise for cancer screening
8. Track your fitness, environmental impact with new cell phone applications
9. UNH researchers track lobster migrations to improve population estimates
10. Studies on imaging and tracking transplanted cells
11. VUANCE Announces Crime Scene Security and Evidentiary Tracking Development Project
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/19/2015)... YORK , Nov. 19, 2015  Although some ... market is dominated by a few companies, according to ... companies own 51% of the market share of the ... The World Market for Molecular Diagnostic s ... "The market is still controlled by one company ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... LIVERMORE, Calif. , Nov. 17, 2015  Vigilant ... has joined its Board of Directors. ... Vigilant,s Board after recently retiring from the partnership at ... owning 107 companies with over $140 Billion in revenue.  ... performance improvement across all the TPG companies, from 1997 ...
(Date:11/12/2015)... , Nov. 11, 2015   Growing need ... analytical tools has been paving the way for ... determination of discrete analytes in clinical, agricultural, environmental, ... being predominantly used in medical applications, however, their ... sectors due to continuous emphasis on improving product ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/27/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 27, 2015 , ... ... Program that includes over 2,000 technical presentations offered in symposia, oral sessions, ... and applied spectroscopy, covers a wide range of applications such as, but not ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... ANNAPOLIS, Md. , Nov. 25, 2015  PharmAthene, ... of Directors has adopted a stockholder rights plan (Rights ... its net operating loss carryforwards (NOLs) under Section 382 ... --> --> PharmAthene,s use of its ... an "ownership change" as defined in Section 382 of ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... QUEBEC CITY , Nov. 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... "Company"), affirms that its business and prospects remain ... , Zoptrex™ (zoptarelin doxorubicin) recently received DSMB ... program to completion following review of the final ... met Phase 2 Primary Endpoint in men with ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015  Asia-Pacific (APAC) holds the third-largest ... market. The trend of outsourcing to low-cost locations ... higher volume share for the region in the ... margins in the CRO industry will improve. ... ( ), finds that the market earned ...
Breaking Biology Technology: