The Arctic System: an interdisciplinary approach

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Course Information


Fiamma Straneo, Carin Ashjian, Tim Eglinton, Konrad Hughen, Sarah Das

6 Unit Seminar Course - Pass/Fail - Fall 2007
Meeting Tuesday: 10:30-12:00 - Clark 509

Course Number 12.757

The International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2009 represents an ambitious effort by the international scientific community to advance our understanding of the polar regions and their link to the rest of the globe. Its scope is strongly interdisciplinary and its timing is particularly crucial given the large changes recently observed in the polar regions including the melting of the multi-year ice, the acceleration of the freshwater cycle and decrease in the ice-sheet over Greenland. This intense program will generate a large volume of data (both from observations and models) and raise questions which will occupy present and future polar scientists well beyond IPY itself. Furthermore, in recent years US funded Arctic Science has focused increasingly on the Arctic System, with projects involving its multiple and diverse components (e.g. ocean, atmosphere, cryosphere, human). The goal of this course is to prepare students for the unique opportunities of the IPY and to be educated and active participants in US Arctic science. Its interdisciplinary focus, in particular, seeks to emphasize the interconnected nature of this system and provide students the opportunity to comprehend its complexity.

The course will introduce students to the Arctic System and to the Arctic Ocean in particular. Its goal is to provide future polar scientists with a broad, interdisciplinary background of this region before they delve into the specifics of their research. The course is divided into three main parts. During the first part, students will be introduced to the physical, chemical and biological aspects of the different components of the Arctic System (land, ocean, cryosphere, atmosphere). In the second part we will present a series of case studies focusing on aspects of the Arctic System (shelf region, ocean basins, river delta, polynya etc.). These will highlight how the different components can interact in complex ways to create strongly diverse environments. The last part will address Arctic change, Arctic variability and, in general, the present and projected role of the Arctic in climate. We note that while the course is focused on the Arctic, a well-defined, self-contained interconnected polar system, the material covered is in large part applicable and relevant to all polar regions.

The course is open to all students from all disciplines of the WHOI-MIT JP (and associated programs). It will consist of an orchestrated series of lectures by the organizers: a physical, a chemical and a biological oceanographer plus a paleoclimatologist and a glaciologist. Throughout the course, we will highlight the pressing, fundamental and outstanding questions pertaining to the Arctic System. As part of the coursework, groups of students from different disciplines will be required to work together and develop a National Science Foundation type proposal that addresses a relevant, interdisciplinary question regarding the Arctic System.

Suggested Reading:

(Books on reserve in Clark 304 - Fofonoff Library)


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Last updated November 1, 2007
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