High-Resolution Observations of Sea-Ice-Edge Processes in the Bering Sea


Arctic Research Initiative
2008 Funded Project


The enormous eastern Bering Sea shelf, which extends from the North Pacific Ocean to Bering Strait, is among the most biologically productive marine ecosystems in the global ocean. Its extraordinary marine resources are integral cultural and dietary components of native Alaskans and they support commercial fisheries that comprise ~50% of the US’s commercial fish harvest. The Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST) Science Plan [2004] emphasize that the eastern Bering shelf ecosystem is undergoing drastic changes that cannot be understood without addressing the role of sea ice, which profoundly influences physical and biogeochemical processes in the region. In particular, processes occurring at the sea-ice edge were identified as the single most important problem to understand.

We propose a unique field effort to examine the three-dimensional structure of the ocean near the ice edge in the central Bering Sea using the REMUS AUV developed at WHOI. We will, for the first time, be able to get a detailed view of the dynamic and biological response of the ocean at a retreating sea ice edge measuring a variety of important variables [current velocity (up- and down-looking ADCPs), temperature and conductivity, chlorophyll fluorescence, CDOM fluorescence and optical backscatter] at dynamically relevant scales (~1 m vertically and < 1 km horizontally).

The proposed field work directly address key questions of the WHOI Arctic Research Initiative, including regional effects of changes in the Arctic on sea ice extent, nutrient transport and coastal dynamics, and will address one of the key components of the Bering Sea ocean-ice system as identified by the NSF NOAA Bering Ecosystem Study research plan.