Assessing the impact of climate warming on ice algal production in the Arctic Ocean


Arctic Research Initiative
2007 Funded Project


In the Arctic ecosystem, ice algae contribute significantly to the total primary production (ice algae + phytoplankton) and play a critical role in sustaining pelagic and benthic secondary production. Climate warming has caused considerable changes in the ice/snow dynamics, including the dramatic decrease of ice coverage, the thinning of sea ice and snow, and the early melting of sea ice. These changes will inevitably impact the spatio-temporal distribution of ice algae production across the Arctic Ocean. Assessing such an impact is technically challenging yet scientifically interesting. In this proposed study, I will apply an ice algae model to quantitatively assess the impact of climate warming on ice algal production in the Arctic Ocean. Data from multiple sources will be used to drive the model, including the ice/snow information derived from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager (SSM/I), surface short wave heat flux (for computing the photosynthesis available radiance) from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project - Flux Data (ISCCP-FD), and nutrients and temperature/salinity climatology from the World Ocean Atlas 2005 (WOA05). The resulting model will be able to examine the change of total ice algae production, as well as the spatial distribution and variation of ice algae blooms (both timing and magnitude) across the Arctic Ocean in response to decreasing ice extent and snow depth.

This proposed study will directly address one of the three issues raised in the WHOI Arctic Research Initiative - understanding the likely effects of climate change on the ecosystem dynamics within the Arctic. It fits well with my research interests and future proposal development, serving as an important first step towards the development of the biological-physical coupled model in the Arctic Ocean. I am currently involved in the development of a proposal to couple hydrodynamics (including ice) and ecosystem models with a team of scientists, including C. Davis and C. Ashjian (WHOI Biology), R. G. Campbell (URI), A. Proshutinsky and R. Beardsley (WHOI PO) and C. Chen (UMass). The proposal will be tentatively submitted in response to the next Western Arctic Shelf-Basin Interactions (SBI) proposal call. In addition, I am discussing collaboration with Dr. Frederic Dupont (hydrodynamic and ice modeler) at Université Laval (Canada) to incorporate the ice algae model with ice/snow dynamics obtained from his ice model.The support from WHOI Arctic Research Initiative on this proposed study will be critical for me to start exploring this new and exciting research area.