Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Whales help researchers measure winter temperatures in Greenland's coastal waters

28.10.2010
Scientists using sensors attached to a type of Arctic whale known for its unicorn-horn-like tooth have detected continued warming of the southern Baffin Bay off West Greenland.

The temperatures of the waters have continued to rise since wintertime ocean temperatures were last effectively measured there in the early 2000s, the researchers reported October 23 in the Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans, a publication of the American Geological Union (AGU).

Temperatures in the study were collected by narwhals, a medium-sized whale species, during missions in 2006 and 2007. The animals were tagged with sensors that recorded ocean depths and temperatures during feeding dives from the surface pack ice to the seafloor, as deep as 1,773 meters, or more than a mile.

Greenland’s coast is a gateway for fresh water from melting polar ice flowing south to the Labrador shelf, ultimately impacting the North Atlantic Current. The Arctic flow’s impact on the current is critical for understanding the impacts of a changing Arctic on the transference of heat globally from the equator to higher latitudes.

“Continued warming will likely have pronounced affects on the species and ecosystem in Baffin Bay and may eventually affect sea ice coverage in the region which in recent years has already retreated significantly,” said Kristin Laidre of the Polar Science Center in the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “The timing of the break-up of spring sea ice is ecologically important for many marine species and is linked to primary production which forms the base of the food chain.” Laidre was lead scientist on the missions and is lead author on the paper.

Scientists have had limited opportunities to measure ocean temperatures in Baffin Bay during winter months because of dense ice and harsh conditions. Cost is also a factor -- it takes millions of dollars to mount a conventional expedition using an ice-breaking vessel and other specialized equipment and people. As a result, for the past decade, researchers used climatology data (long-term historical average observations) rather than direct ocean temperature measurements, for winter temperatures in the area.

The published study reports that highest winter ocean temperature measurements in 2006 and 2007 from both narwhals and additional sensors deployed using helicopters, ranged between 4 and 4.6 degrees Celsius (39.2 and 40.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

“Narwhals proved to be highly efficient and cost-effective ‘biological oceanographers,’ providing wintertime data to fill gaps in our understanding of this important ocean area,” said “Their natural behavior makes them ideal for obtaining ocean temperatures during repetitive deep vertical dives. This mission was a ‘proof-of-concept’ that narwhal-obtained data can be used to make large-scale hydrographic surveys in Baffin Bay and to extend the coverage of a historical database into the poorly sampled winter season,” she said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funded the missions in 2006 and 2007 to tag and track narwhals as they made a fall migration from northwest Greenland to their wintering grounds in Baffin Bay. During that time and in an earlier mission, 14 adult narwhals were tagged with sensors to record date and time, ocean temperature and depth information. The data were automatically sent to a satellite when the narwhals surfaced for air between cracks in the sea ice. Tagging was carried out in accordance with the University of Washington’s Animal Care Guidelines and a permit issued by the Government of Greenland. Each sensor tag provided up to seven months of data before falling off.

The study also found that temperatures were on average nearly one degree Celsius warmer than climatology data. Whale-collected temperatures also demonstrated the thickness of the winter surface isothermal layer to be 50 to 80 meters less than the climatology data. The isothermal layer is a layer of constant temperature.

Laidre worked in Baffin Bay with colleagues and co-authors Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources in Nuuk, Greenland and Wendy Ermold and Michael Steele also from the Polar Science Center, University of Washington.

The narwhal missions, sponsored by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, are chronicled at http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/06arctic/welcome.html

Title:
“Narwhals document continued warming of southern Baffin Bay”
Contact information for the authors:
Kristin Laidre, Polar Science Center, Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington, 206-616-9030, klaidre@apl.washington.edu

Peter Weiss | American Geophysical Union
Further information:
http://www.agu.org
http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/06arctic/welcome.html

Further reports about: Arctic Greenland Polar Day ocean temperature sea ice temperature measurements whales

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA eyes Pineapple Express soaking California
24.02.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht 'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field
23.02.2017 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>