Combined with our research activities funded by institute funds and the Comer Science and Education Foundation, the three-year funding total for the Arctic Research Initiative is now about $6.8 million, supporting more than 45 research projects and significantly enhancing WHOI’s role in understanding the changes in Arctic climate and their impacts on the marine and surrounding terrestrial ecosystems. Several new research programs were begun during 2009, including a new study of the interaction of glaciers and the warming ocean in several Greenland fjords.
ARI funding enabled us to support Emily Shroyer, a postdoctoral fellow working with Al Plueddemann in Physical Oceanography (PO). Emily is studying the wind-driven response of the Alaskan Coastal Current off Point Barrow, Alaska, a region of high biological productivity and one of the principal locations for the transport of fresh Pacific water into the Arctic Basin.
OCCI research activities also extended beyond the Arctic to include new projects to study carbon cycle dynamics, submarine groundwater discharge and tropical Pacific and Atlantic interactions that influence climate variability.
Sarah Das in Geology & Geophysics (G&G) and Young-Oh Kwon (PO) began three-year OCCI fellowships in 2009. Sarah works on developing new methods and observations to understand ice sheet melting, ice dynamics and meltwater run-off. Young-Oh is examining global climate model simulations and comparing them with the observational data, to understand the role of ocean-atmosphere coupling in long-term climate variability in the North Atlantic and North Pacific.
In 2009 OCCI continued its support of Katherine Silverthorne (MIT/WHOI Joint Program student in Physical Oceanography). She studies the development of the "18 degree water" in the North Atlantic, a water layer of consistent temperature and salinity that may play a role in climate.
Elizabeth Douglas was the 2009 OCCI postdoctoral fellow. Liz is working with Steve Jayne in PO, studying the variability of the Kuroshio Current—the Pacific equivalent of the Gulf Stream—in ocean circulation models and observations.
OCCI also played a role in two education outreach activities in 2009. The institute supported a pilot program, called the Climate Summer Internship Program, to provide high school students with a summer research experience. Delia Oppo (Senior Scientist in G&G) and Joanne Muller (Falmouth Academy science teacher and former WHOI Postdoctoral Fellow) provided seven Falmouth Academy and Falmouth High School students with hands-on experience using deep sea sediments to understand earth's climate history. OCCI will suppport this program again in 2010.
Climate change was the theme of the 2009 WHOI Geodynamics Program, and OCCI helped to develop the curriculum and supported the activities. This program fosters interdisciplinary research in the earth sciences among faculty, MIT/WHOI Joint Program students and postdoctoral investigators. The program entails a 14-week seminar series of visiting scientists presenting their research results to the WHOI community. The talks explored the interactions between earth dynamical processes and climate, such as the impact of mountain building and volcanic out-gassing on climate, past sea level rise and the deformation of the whole earth as a result of glacial-interglacial climate cycles.
The program culminated with a group study tour to the Caribbean island of Barbados, a classic field area for the study of ice-age sea-level history. Barbados is an actively rising island at the crest of the Barbados Ridge, and is unique, in that the island’s sedimentary rock base is capped by a sequence of coral terraces that grew during sea level changes of the past 700,000 years.
— William Curry, Institute Director