In a unique and complex example of "science diplomacy," teams of U.S. and Swedish scientists are sailing this month aboard two research vessels to study the ecology of the Amundsen Sea, one of the least-explored and most productive bodies in Antarctic waters, and to gauge the potential effects of a changing climate on the Southern Ocean.
The joint American and Swedish expedition, involving the U.S. icebreaking research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer and the Swedish icebreaker Oden, was cooperatively planned and is being carried out by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs and the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat (SPRS).
The research brings together a multidisciplinary group of scientists within a wide spectrum of scientific areas, including persistent pollutants and greenhouse gases, the ecology of invasive species, epidemiology among seals and microbial ecology, and the physics of sea ice and oceanography.
The cruise will give a unique opportunity to perform research in one of the least-studied areas of the Antarctic. Findings could have important implications for the future of the Antarctic marine ecosystem, as the number of polynyas in Antarctic waters can be expected to increase in a warming climate. Polynya, derived from a Russian word, means an area of open ocean surrounded by ice.
The Palmer sailed from Punta Arenas, Chile on Nov. 26 and the Oden left Punta Arenas on Dec. 8. The two vessels are expected to rendezvous in mid-December. Palmer's primary work area will be in open waters along the Antarctic Peninsula and in the Amundsen Sea polynya, while the Oden researchers will focus on work in sea ice.
With Swedish and U.S. teams on both ships, the ASPIRE project (Amundsen Sea Polynya International Research Expedition) will use a state-of-the-art trace metal detection system to measure the total amount of iron, and the individual iron isotopes, in the Amundsen Sea. Iron is an important micron
|Contact: Lily Whiteman|
National Science Foundation