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Polar Research


Will melting glaciers cool the climate?

greenland ice

As glaciers melt at unprecedented rates, WHOI’s Simon Pendleton is looking back to historical records to predict whether this new cool runoff will slow ocean circulation and cool the northern hemisphere––findings which could mean adjustments to some climate predictions.

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A rapidly changing Arctic

Healy, Polarstern

A new study by researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and their international colleagues found that freshwater runoff from rivers and continental shelf sediments are bringing significant quantities of carbon and trace elements into parts of the Arctic Ocean via the Transpolar Drift—a major surface current that moves water from Siberia across the North Pole to the North Atlantic Ocean.

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Polar bear sighting aboard USCGC Healy

A polar bear sighting off the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy during the 2015 Arctic GEOTRACES expedition. The Arctic has experienced the highest degree of warming on the planet, causing sea ice to thin and recede. The region’s iconic polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt, travel and mate.

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A sea of ancient ice

ancient ice

WHOI scientist dusts off historical accounts to tackle the long-standing mystery of just how thick Arctic sea ice was in the early 19th century.

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Oases in Sea Ice Are Essential to Life in Antarctica

This video explains the key physical, biological and ecological processes in oases on the Antarctic icy coast — polynyas. Researchers at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Delaware are trying to unveil crucial connections among the physical and biological components in the polynyas and to understand how the Antarctic ecosystem responds to changes in the large-scale environment.

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March of the Penguins

Emperor penguins are some of the most striking and charismatic animals on Earth, but a new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has found that a warming climate may render them extinct by the end of this century. The study, which was part of an international collaboration between scientists, published Nov. 7, 2019, in the journal Global Change Biology.

The fate of the penguins is largely tied to the fate of sea ice, which the animals use as a home base for breeding, feeding and molting, she notes. Emperor penguins tend to build their colonies on ice with extremely specific conditions—it must be locked into the shoreline of the Antarctic continent, but close enough to open seawater to give the birds access to food for themselves and their young. As climate warms, however, that sea ice will gradually disappear, robbing the birds of their habitat, food sources, and ability to raise their chicks.

Jenouvrier and her team conducted the study by combining two existing computer models. The first, a global climate model created by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), offered projections of where and when sea ice would form under different climate scenarios. The second, a model of the penguin population itself, calculated how colonies might react to changes in that ice habitat.

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Whale Blow Microbiome

Researchers from WHOI, NOAA Fisheries Southwest Science Center, SR3 Sealife, and the Vancouver Aquarium analyzed whale blow samples collected via drone to identify a core group of bacteria in the respiratory tract of healthy whales.

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Whale Biopsy Collection

A team gathers skin samples from healthy humpback whales in waters off the Western Antarctic Peninsula. Researchers obtain samples by releasing a biopsy-collecting dart, which bounces off the whales’ skin and into the water. The team then retrieves the floating dart and brings it back to a lab for analysis.

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Why is the Greenland Ice Sheet melting faster than ever?

Senior scientist Claudia Cenedese has been studying how glaciers melt for the last 15 years in her fluids laboratory. In 2018 she was a principal investigator on a research cruise in Greenland for the first time. She wants to understand why the Greenland Ice Sheet is melting faster than ever and what happens to the fresh water released into the ocean.

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An icebreaker pauses

WHOI senior engineer Jeff O’Brien offloads an ice-tethered profiler buoy and winch from the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, during the 2019 expedition (17th year) of WHOI’s Beaufort Gyre Expedition Exploration Project

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A tipping point

Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) are the largest species of penguin and one of the most charismatic animals on Earth. Their…

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March of the penguins

New Zealand Geographic

If current warming trends continue, emperor penguins will be marching toward an 86 per cent population decline by the end of the century, at which point, “it is very unlikely for them to bounce back,” says study author Stephanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Nereid Under Ice explores Aurora hydrothermal vent field

nereid under ice vehicle

The newly upgraded Nereid Under Ice, a hybrid remotely operated vehicle, is deployed from the Norwegian Icebreaker KronPrins Haakon to conduct its first deep ocean dives to 4,000 meters (over 13,000 feet) along the Gakkel Ridge in the Arctic Ocean.

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Unless warming is slowed, emperor penguins will be marching towards extinction

penguins

Emperor penguins are some of the most striking and charismatic animals on Earth, but a new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has found that a warming climate may render them extinct by the end of this century. The study, which was part of an international collaboration between scientists, published Nov. 7, 2019, in the journal Global Change Biology.

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