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 Novel method for investigating pore geometry in rocks
18.06.2018 | Kyushu University, I2CNER

nachricht Decades of satellite monitoring reveal Antarctic ice loss
14.06.2018 | University of Maryland

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: AchemAsia 2019 will take place in Shanghai

Moving into its fourth decade, AchemAsia is setting out for new horizons: The International Expo and Innovation Forum for Sustainable Chemical Production will take place from 21-23 May 2019 in Shanghai, China. With an updated event profile, the eleventh edition focusses on topics that are especially relevant for the Chinese process industry, putting a strong emphasis on sustainability and innovation.

Founded in 1989 as a spin-off of ACHEMA to cater to the needs of China’s then developing industry, AchemAsia has since grown into a platform where the latest...

Im Focus: First real-time test of Li-Fi utilization for the industrial Internet of Things

The BMBF-funded OWICELLS project was successfully completed with a final presentation at the BMW plant in Munich. The presentation demonstrated a Li-Fi communication with a mobile robot, while the robot carried out usual production processes (welding, moving and testing parts) in a 5x5m² production cell. The robust, optical wireless transmission is based on spatial diversity; in other words, data is sent and received simultaneously by several LEDs and several photodiodes. The system can transmit data at more than 100 Mbit/s and five milliseconds latency.

Modern production technologies in the automobile industry must become more flexible in order to fulfil individual customer requirements.

Im Focus: Sharp images with flexible fibers

An international team of scientists has discovered a new way to transfer image information through multimodal fibers with almost no distortion - even if the fiber is bent. The results of the study, to which scientist from the Leibniz-Institute of Photonic Technology Jena (Leibniz IPHT) contributed, were published on 6thJune in the highly-cited journal Physical Review Letters.

Endoscopes allow doctors to see into a patient’s body like through a keyhole. Typically, the images are transmitted via a bundle of several hundreds of optical...

Im Focus: Photoexcited graphene puzzle solved

A boost for graphene-based light detectors

Light detection and control lies at the heart of many modern device applications, such as smartphone cameras. Using graphene as a light-sensitive material for...

Im Focus: Water is not the same as water

Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities. These results were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and their colleagues in Hamburg in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

From a chemical perspective, water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms. It is less well known that water exists in two...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Munich conference on asteroid detection, tracking and defense

13.06.2018 | Event News

2nd International Baltic Earth Conference in Denmark: “The Baltic Sea region in Transition”

08.06.2018 | Event News

ISEKI_Food 2018: Conference with Holistic View of Food Production

05.06.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Novel method for investigating pore geometry in rocks

18.06.2018 | Earth Sciences

Diamond watch components

18.06.2018 | Process Engineering

New type of photosynthesis discovered

18.06.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>