Arctic Research Initiative


Despite its remoteness, the Arctic Ocean is intimately connected to the health of the planet, because it plays a pivotal role in Earth's climate system. The reality of recent changes in the Arctic—rapid warming and the accelerating loss of sea ice—is now widely acknowledged. The impact of such changes on marine and terrestrial ecosystems in the Arctic and beyond will be profound. Yet, research in the Arctic is complicated and difficult, because it is a largely inaccessible and unforgiving environment.

Growing interest in conducting such challenging research led WHOI to establish the Arctic Research Initiative.

The initiative includes support for:

  • field programs to monitor changes in ocean circulation and sea ice,
  • studies of river flow and the chemical composition of the waters draining into the Arctic Ocean,
  • investigations of melting permafrost surrounding the Arctic Ocean and glaciers on the Greenland ice sheet,
  • measurements of nutrient and carbon transport from the land to the sea,
  • assessing changes in the ecosystem for marine mammals and resulting effects on local indigenous populations,
  • gauging the impacts of increased coastal erosion and
  • the development of new remote monitoring systems to observe this challenging environment.

Ocean circulation plays a key role in moderating the global climate, and the presence or absence of sea ice, permafrost, and glaciers impacts that circulation—thus, climate well beyond the Arctic. As climate changes, ecosystems change, and their inhabitants either adapt, move, or expire.

Therefore, the broad questions addressed by this initiative are:

  • What are the regional and global effects of changes in the Arctic on the extent of sea ice, on ocean circulation, and on climate?
  • What are the current and likely future effects on ecosystems within and beyond the Arctic? Understanding the changes in the Arctic will enable us to predict changes elsewhere in the world and perhaps indicate ways in which we might mitigate or cope with future climate change.

2013 Funded Research

Autonomous CTD Profiling at the Edge of Calving Glaciers

Fiamma Straneo, Physical Oceanography
Hanu Singh, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering
Sarah Das, Geology & Geophysics

2011 Funded Projects

Seasonal Fluxes Across Submarine Ice Sheet Margins: A Pilot Study in West Greenland

Sarah Das, Geology & Geophysics
Hanu Singh, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering
Lee Freitag, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering
Al Plueddemann, Physical Oceanography
Fiamma Straneo, Physical Oceanography

Freshwater Discharge and Sediment Dispersal on the Alaskan Beaufort Shelf

David Ralston, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering
Rocky Geyer, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering

2010 Funded Projects

Examining the Effects of Arctic Warming on Coastal Landforms and Estuarine Ecosystems

Jeffrey Donnelly, Geology & Geophysics
Joan Bernhard, Geology & Geophysics
Liviu Giosan, Geology & Geophysics
Andrew Ashton, Geology & Geophysics
Kris Karnauskas, Geology & Geophysics
Andrea Hawkes, Geology & Geophysics

Transfer of terrestrial organic carbon in the Mackenzie River system

Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry
Valier Galy, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry
Zhaohui Wang, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry
Adam Soule, Geology & Geophysics
Tim Eglinton, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry

Arctic Warming and Destabilization of Gas Hydrates

Chris R. German, Geology & Geophysics
Richard Camilli, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering
Dana Yoerger, Applied Ocean Physics & Engineering

2009 Funded Projects

Observing Ice Sheet/Ocean Interactions in a Greenland Glacial Fjord

Fiammetta Straneo, Physical Oceanography
Ruth Curry, Physical Oceanography
Breck Owens, Physical Oceanography

2008 Funded Projects

Cryoturbation Rates and Depths in Arctic Permafrost from Cosmogenic Nuclides

Mark Kurz, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry
Adam Soule, Geology & Geophysics
William Jenkins, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry

2007 Funded Projects

Mineral Weathering in the Arctic

Bernhard Peucker-Ehrenbrink, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry
Olivier Rouxel, Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry