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R/V Louis St. Laurent - Beaufort Gyre, 08/02/2004.

Break on Through

The Canadian coast guard icebreaker Louis St. Laurent stands tall above the ice-capped Beaufort Sea. Since 2003, researchers from WHOI, the Canadian Institute of Ocean Sciences, and the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center have been studying the Beaufort Gyre, a slowly swirling bowl of icy water north of Alaska. The gyre is the major reservoir of fresh water stored in the Arctic Ocean, and its volume is 10 to 15 times larger than the total annual river runoff to the Arctic Ocean and at least two times larger than the amount of fresh water stored in Arctic sea ice. Recent observations suggest that global warming has tipped the natural rhythms of the Beaufort Gyre out of balance. The expeditions to the Beaufort Sea will continue through 2008 and will contribute to the broader efforts of the International Polar Year. (Photo by Rick Krishfield, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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