In 2010, the Arctic Research Initiative (ARI) of the Ocean and Climate Change Institute (OCCI) entered its fourth year. The ARI is our five-year, $10 million focused effort to study the changes in Arctic climate, ocean chemistry and ecosystems resulting from increased atmospheric CO2 and a warming Arctic ocean and atmosphere. Many of the OCCI research activities in 2010 focused on the study of ice in the Arctic. Fiamma Straneo (in WHOI’s Physical Oceanography Department) used ARI funds to observe and measure the interactions between warm Atlantic Ocean waters and glaciers in several fjords along the eastern coast of Greenland. Al Plueddemann (also in Physical Oceanography) made our first attempts to deploy and navigate an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) beneath the ice in the Arctic Ocean. OCCI funded several studies of the fate of organic carbon as the surrounding permafrost begins to melt. These carbon-rich soils have been frozen for thousands of years, and rapid warming of the Arctic region is allowing the carbon to be eroded (through rainfall and melting) and transported through river systems into the Arctic Ocean. Aleck Wang (WHOI Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department) received an award to develop autonomous sensors to measure CO2 in Arctic rivers. Ann McNichol (Geology and Geophysics Department) began a project to measure the radiocarbon content of organic material arriving in the Canadian Basin of the Arctic —measuring this radioactive isotope of carbon allows her to determine how much of the carbon arriving there is “old” and therefore likely to have come from the melting permafrost. In 2010, the ARI distributed about $1.8 million for research awards and postdoctoral support.
The OCCI also supported research on climate variability in tropical locations. Delia Oppo and Pat Lohmann (both in Geology and Geophysics) mounted a field program to the Bahamas to take cores of skeletons of long-lived corals for records of past tropical climate. The chemistry of these corals is affected by the temperature and salinity conditions in which they live, so by measuring the changes in chemistry of old coral skeletons, records of climate can be developed. Kris Karnauskas (Geology and Geophysics) used models of ocean circulation to study the linkages between changes in the tropical Atlantic and the tropical Pacific Oceans.
Sarah Das (Geology and Geophysics) and Young-Oh Kwan (Physical Oceanography) are in the second year of their three-year terms as OCCI Fellows (having begun in May 2009. In 2010, two new postdoctoral scholars joined us: Sean Bryan, a graduate of the University of Colorado and Donglai Gong, a graduate of Rutgers University. Katie Silverthorne, a graduate student in Physical Oceanography supported by OCCI, successfully defended her Ph.D. thesis in 2010. She is now working as a postdoc at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland. MIT-WHOI Joint Program students Maya Bhatia (Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry) and Camillo Ponton (Geology and Geophysics) are now supported by OCCI for their graduate studies. Maya is working on the biogeochemistry of the Greenland ice sheet and Camillo is studying the long-term history of the south Asian monsoon.
OCCI also hosted the Climate Summer Internship Program again this year, providing local high school students with a summer research experience. Delia Oppo and Joanne Muller (Falmouth Academy science teacher and former WHOI Postdoctoral Fellow) provided six Falmouth Academy students and four Falmouth High School students with hands-on experience using deep-sea sediments to understand Earth's climate history. Following the success of the pilot program in 2009 and again this year, OCCI views this as an important annual contribution to education and outreach activities in the Falmouth area.
— William Curry, Institute Director