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Under Arctic Ice: Watch the Video

Click here to view the embedded video.

This video depicts the activities of the LDEO Switchyard field team, which deploys annually and uses ski-equipped aircraft to reach a series of sample sites between the North Pole and Ellesmere Island in Canada.

After landing, a hole is drilled through the ice, and the sampling system is lowered through the hole to a depth of about 700 meters. The sampling system (the thin hole rosette) which was designed and built at the Lamont-Doherty Instrument Lab, allows the LDEO field team to examine the water as the assembly descends and to collect water samples for later analysis when interesting properties are observed. This work is supported by the US National Science Foundation.

This video was shot by Switchyard team member Dan Greenspan, who is a researcher at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. Check out his blog, and his recent entry: “Traveling to the North Pole, Part 10: Eclipse, with Wolves.”

The End of the Line

Sea Ice Blooms in the Far North - Tue, 05/22/2012 - 11:27
The R/V Oscar Dyson pulled into Dutch Harbor, Alaska on May 9 after a hectic few final days! We are now starting to sift through the hundreds of samples and a hard-drive worth of data we shipped back, unpacking our eleven boxes of gear, and re-packing perhaps even more for an upcoming cruise off the coast of Brazil. Thanks to everyone who helped make our cruise aboard the R/V Oscar Dyson such a success!

Final Days in Alert

Time is flying, bringing us to our final days in Alert. We were able to recover samples from 12 stations, which is a great success and the second most successful year on record. Thanks to everyone who made it happen: Dale, Richard and Dan who went out every possible day to collect samples; Al and Jim for their support in Alert and of course our friendly Canadian colleagues..

The next two days are filled with packing and arranging the equipment and samples for their long journey home to New York. We plan to fly out of Alert on May 22 to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland but don’t know yet when the Air National Guard will pick us for the flight to New York. We hope to be home by May 25.

Locations of the 12 stations where we collected samples this season.

Lucky 13 Gets Us 250,000 Years of Sediment

Future El Niño - Sat, 05/19/2012 - 22:41

Beautiful white sediment inside the core barrel.

mud tatto

A mother’s day tattoo celebrates the good cores we are getting.

sediment cores

Rick Murray (Boston University), Victor Castro (University of California, Santa Cruz) and Samantha Bova (Brown University) discuss what the sediment’s color tells us about ocean chemistry

We have been steaming and searching for locations on the seafloor where the sediments are accumulating undisturbed. We tried without luck to take cores at several promising locations, however the cores came up less than perfect.  It turns out that much of the undersea portion of the Line Islands has ocean currents that remove and erode sediment. This erosion shows up in the sediment cores as sandy layers where the very small grains of sediment have been swept away. So, we kept up our vigil in the main lab area, closely monitoring the seafloor for small pockets of sediment that looked promising. Some pockets are only a few tenths of a mile across while others are a mile or two. Many that look beautiful from a distance turn out to be ugly on closer inspection.

On our 13th core attempt of the cruise, we got lucky. The corer came back full of the beautiful, white mud. The 20-foot core contains over 250,000 years of sediment and spans the last three glacial cycles in earth’s history. During each of these cycles the earth cooled and large ice sheets expanded over North America and elsewhere. In our core, these cycles are indicated by color changes from greenish brown to white and back.

After lucky 13, we began to hone our strategy and are finding more locations with good sediments. We now have lucky 15, 17, and many more; we now have over 30 cores and counting. Not all of them are perfect, but we are getting better at finding good sediments and faster at coring them.

sediment analysis with multi-sensor track

Ann Dunlea (Boston University) uses a multi-sensor track to analyze a sediment core aboard the R/V Langseth.

sniffing sediment for hydrogen sulfide gas

Mitch Lyle (Texas A&M University) sniffs a new sediment core for whiffs of hydrogen sulfide gas. Decomposition of dead algae in the sediments helps produce the gas.

tropical sunset

A beautiful tropical sunset provides an excuse to relax.

A Walk against Cancer

Alert hosted the first northernmost cancer-fighting fundraising event “Relay for Life,” an event sponsored by the Canadian Cancer Society to celebrate cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost to cancer and fight back against all cancers.

Lights to honor loved ones.

The 12-hour-walk was organized by Kristy Doyle, who lost her grandfather to cancer in 2010. Participants raised a whopping $7,580 and collectively walked 900 kilometers. I admit that I feel proud for doing my small part by walking 8 kilometers.

More than 900 kilometers walked in 12-hours

A Rare Treat – The Green Flash

Future El Niño - Tue, 05/15/2012 - 16:00

By Lee Dortzbach,

light dispersion through a prism

Refraction through a prism separates light into different colors. The atmosphere has the same effect, separating the sun’s image into the ROYGBIV colors (red, orange, yellow, blue, green, indigo, violet). The sun’s green image is visible during the sunset when the brighter orange and yellow images fall below the horizon. Image courtesy of D-Kuru/Wikimedia Commons licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Austria.

MGL_1208_Green_Flash_Start_Zoom

Enlarged view showing the green at the edge of the sun’s disc. Photo by Tatiana Moreno, a protected species observer on our cruise.

I work as the Chief Mate aboard the Research Vessel Marcus G. Langseth for this cruise and stand the 4 to 8 watch.  Every morning as I get the ship where the scientists need to be, I watch for the sun to rise.  Every evening I watch for it to set.  There are some days when clouds are around and make for some great sunsets.  Other days we cannot see the sun through all the clouds.

Sunday night after successfully recovering a gravity core about 42 miles north of the equator, conditions were right for a rare treat – the green flash.  There were clear skies around the Sun, good visibility and a clear horizon.  When I first heard about the green flash, I thought it was something that was noticeable and quick.  Over the last decade, I have seen that it is not a sky-covering flash (as depicted in the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End), but a short lived change of the sun’s light as it sets.

It happens because of refraction of light through the Earth’s atmosphere.  The white light of the sun is broken into different wavelengths of visible light we recognize as different colors.  The red and orange cover most of the sky, the yellow of the sun gets more orange-like as the sun sets and the blue and violet get scattered too much for us to see.

So what about the green?  It too is scattered most of the time until the tip of the Sun is barely visible above the horizon.  The Sun’s yellow light is refracted more and so the ‘yellow’ sun sets below the horizon before the ‘green’ sun.  The sliver of green becomes visible to our eyes only when the bright yellow light is fading during the sunset.  It starts from the bottom up in a horizontal band that grows a little taller as the sun sets.  On a few occasions I have seen a sliver of blue/violet light below the green (a challenge against a blue ocean and a greater treat).  In the latitude of the United States, it lasts about 0.7 seconds.  Sometimes it can last up to 4 seconds.  Ours lasted between 1 and 2 seconds.  Definitely a flash compared to the core we just recovered!

For more information and other pictures of green flashes, click here.

Lee Dortzbach graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy with a B.S. in Marine Transportation in 2000. He has been around the world on several different ships over the last decade, including two oceanographic research vessels. He lives in landlocked Utah.

MGL_1208_Green_Flash_Start

Beginning of Sunday’s green flash. Photo by Tatiana Moreno.

MGL_1208_Green_Flash_Middle

More green visible as the sun sets. Photo by Tatiana Moreno.

A Visit to Crystal Mountain

The weather has improved considerably and we were able to fly out today to collect more samples. Yesterday, some of us went to explore Crystal Mountain, a 900-foot peak about five miles from Alert that offers an excellent view of the surrounding landscape.

Crystal Mountain at the left.

Ronny Friedrich on Crystal Mountain.

Alert is a Canadian military station located in the far north region of Qikiqtaaluk, Nunavut, Canada–the self-proclaimed “northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world.” There is no doubt that Alert is unique, with its 10-months of snow cover, extremely harsh winters with temperatures as low as -40 degrees C (-40 F) and average summer temperatures hardly above freezing. Alert is named after the HMS Alert, a British ship that spent the winter of 1875-1876 about 10 kilometers east of present-day Alert while exploring the arctic. The HMS Alert was the first ship to get that far north. Alert was settled as a weather station in the early 1950s and at the height of the Cold War became a military base due to its proximity to what was then the Soviet Union.

View toward Alert and the Arctic Ocean. Alert is the darker spots to the left.

Alert is a fascinating place that has seen more than its share of downed airplanes and where the hardships that earlier inhabitants endured are still apparent. Nowadays, life is easier and does not evoke the romantic images of arctic exploration of the past. Sure, the Internet moves at a snail’s pace and telephone-use is restricted to 30 minutes per day, but the food is excellent, and we are warm and dry.

Ice cores…finally

Today I got another chance to go out with team CASIMBO to drill ice-cores. The weather was beautiful with no wind, a few clouds, bright sunshine and a balmy temperature of about 5 degrees F.

The smooth snow and ice in the foreground is the Arctic Ocean "beach" while the rubble in the back is actual sea ice.

When I first saw sea ice near Alert a few years ago, I was very surprised. It wasn’t anything like I had imagined. One might expect sea ice to be like lake ice: smooth and flat. But Arctic Ocean ice is in constant motion, driven by winds and ocean currents. Big chunks of ice break-up, smash into each other and create ice that looks more like a rubble field.

Trying to find a way through the ice field to the sampling location.

As we drove over the icy rubble on our snowmobile, we searched for a route to our sampling location, about 3 to 4 miles away from Alert (45 minutes by snowmobile). Taking an ice-core is relatively simple. One of the pictures shows Ben using the corer. It is basically a plastic pipe with cutting knives at the end that drills into the ice while keeping the ice-core trapped inside. After 3 feet of ice is cored, the corer is lifted out of the hole and the ice core is packed into containers for further processing in Alert.

Ben drilling an ice-core

The ice above was about six feet thick but generally, thickness varies. There is thin ice that has just formed on open water between ice floes, first year ice, or ice that has formed this winter, several-feet thick and ice that has formed over several years that can be more than 20 feet thick.

Drilling Ancient Mud from Seafloor No Easy Task

Future El Niño - Wed, 05/09/2012 - 23:01
A sediment core is secured along the ship’s rail for sampling.

A sediment core is secured along the ship’s rail for sampling.

Watching winch tension as a core is pulled out of the seafloor.

Scientists monitor how hard the cable is pulling as a sediment core is pulled out of the seafloor. Too much pull will stretch the cable and could cause it to break, leaving the sediment corer on the bottom of the ocean.

Yesterday we left our first study region with new samples from the seafloor and a healthy respect for the ocean currents that can erode sediment deep in the ocean.  The samples will be useful for our research but we had to work for them.  The seafloor we surveyed was heavily eroded and we had to look carefully before finding sites that were promising enough to sample.  Even then we ran into difficulties getting the sediments back to the ship.

We spent several days surveying the seafloor using instruments on the ship to identify possible sites for sampling.  We looked for flat areas where we could see layers of sediment below the seafloor.  These layers show up in the echoes from sound pulses in a type of measurement called seismic reflection (see previous blog post).  Unfortunately much of the region we surveyed has deep gullies with no sediment layers.  Ocean currents have scoured these regions leaving no sediment for us to core.  We finally located several small areas that had a hint of sediments and one big pile of sediment we thought would be our best chance for samples.

We use a sediment corer to take samples of the seafloor.  The corer is a long tube with heavy weights on top that push the tube down into the seafloor.  When the tube is pulled out it removes a long cylinder of sediment that we bring back to the surface.  The corer is lowered on a steel cable at about 1.5 miles per hour and takes more than an hour to reach the seafloor.  At 150 feet above the seafloor, a mechanical trigger releases the corer from the cable and 5,000 pounds of steel rocket towards the bottom.  The weight and speed push the corer up to 30 feet into the sediments.  Then we have to pull the corer back out.  Sometimes this is easy but if the sediments stick to the corer it can take almost 20,000 pounds of pull to free the tube and slide it out.

Section of sediment core

A section of sediment core showing changes from clay sediments at the bottom to sandy sediment on top.

Sorting foraminifera shells

Foraminifera shells a few millimeters across can be sorted with a fine-tipped paintbrush. The different species of foraminifera can be used to determine the age of the sediments.

The other important step in coring is to keep the sediments inside the tube on their two-mile trip back to the surface.  This seems obvious but we ran into troubles with the very first core we took.  Usually a ring of metal fingers in the bottom of the core (called a core catcher) keeps the sediment inside the tube.  However, the sediment we were coring contained a lot of sand-sized shells that was washing out of the tube leaving us with no sediment by the time the corer reached the surface.  To prevent this, we added a sock of fabric around the core catcher to keep the sand from washing out.  Bingo!  The fabric kept the sand in the corer and we started recovering sediments to study.

When the sediment corer arrives at the ocean surface it is laid horizontally along the ship’s rail where we take a sample of the sediment in the core catcher to determine the age of the bottom of the core.  This age is determined by looking for a striking, pink colored shell made by a type of plankton called foraminifera. This pink foraminifera was abundant in the Pacific Ocean until 120,000 years ago, so if we find pink shells we know the sediments are at least 120,000 years old.  We will do more detailed analyses later but this age gives us our first peek at how much time it took for the sediments to accumulate.

Next, we cut the core into smaller sections that are easier to handle and the core is split open so we can see how the sediment looks.  We study its color, texture and composition before storing it in a refrigerated container aboard the ship.  At the end of the cruise we will send the container to the Deep-Sea Core Repository at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory where the sediments will be preserved for researchers around the world to study.

We are now steaming south to the equator to start a new survey to find the right locations to drill more sediment cores.

Sock inside the core catcher

Katherine Wejnert from The Georgia Institute of Technology samples the sock inside the core catcher.

Cutting a sediment core into sections.

Steve Hovan (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) and Allison Jacobel (Columbia University) cut a sediment core into sections.

Preparing to take notes on the sediment composition.

Christine King (University of Rhode Island) prepares to take notes about a new sediment core.

Microscopic examination of sediments

Jennifer Hertzberg (Texas A & M University) determines how old the sediments are by looking for a pink-shelled species of foraminifera that lived in the Pacific Ocean 120,000 years ago.

Ice-Coring…Almost

The weather became increasingly cloudy yesterday with low visibility and snow. That means no flying. The forecast for the next 24 hours doesn’t look promising either. As usual in the Arctic it’s better not to forecast — everything might change within hours.

Getting ready to get ice-cores together with colleagues from University of Alberta.

In addition to the standard suite of samples that we usually take, this year we will take ice-core samples to see how the melting sea ice below is affecting the ice. Our colleagues from the team CASIMBO, at the University of Alberta, have shared pictures of their ice-cores with us.

An ice-core under polarized light showing snow cover on top and ice crystals forming below.

To get a feeling for the amount of work necessary to drill an ice-core, I tried to join CASIMBO out on the ice via snowmobile, but due to the bad weather we had to return to the base. The wind and snow was picking up, and clouds prevented us from judging the condition of snow-covered surface we were driving on. (There are no roads here!) The risk of getting lost was far too great. I wore several layers of clothing, including three pairs of heavy socks, but was still shivering in the cold.

Not much to see in bad weather. Total white-out.

Sampling Water at the North Pole

The 2012 field season started out better than we could hope for. The weather has been great for flying and sampling water below the thick sea ice that covers much of the Arctic Ocean. Good weather means no low clouds or fog to prevent our pilots from seeing where they are going. Unlike regular airplanes that can land and take off in most weather, our planes don’t have the fancy technical instruments such as radar that can peer through cloudy skies. We were able to recover water samples from three stations, including one at the North Pole–a big success since the North Pole is crucial to understanding global ocean currents. The North Pole station is the farthest from Alert, requiring four to five hours of flying to get there, including a stop to refuel on the way and sometimes on the way back. To refuel, we land on the ice where we have have prepared a make-shift gas station several days earlier. The station consists of several drums of fuel and a beacon that allows us to find it on a constantly shifting landscape of ice; the sea ice moves several hundred meters each day. Unlike the South Pole, the North Pole is surrounded by water and so the landscape here looks very uniform. It’s hard to know that you’ve arrived some place special.
To collect our water samples, we drill through up to eight feet of ice and lower a special sampling device into the hole that will measure the water’s temperature, salinity (conductivity) and dissolved oxygen as it descends. Today we are not allowed to fly and so we will spend the day resting and preparing our equipment for the days ahead.

On the Move

Sea Ice Blooms in the Far North - Mon, 05/07/2012 - 14:57
After another day spent hiding out in the Aleutian Islands, we are headed northeast towards the sea ice to attempt recovery of two oceanographic moorings. The weather is improved, only a couple of days remain for scientific study, and we are excited to hopefully accomplish one of the main goals of this cruise!

Albany to Alert

Our annual trip to the Arctic starts in Albany, where the Air National Guard will fly us north in a  venerable C130 Hercules military transport plane.

C130 Hercules

Inside the C130. No first class here, not even economy.

First stop is Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, where we will stay overnight. Kangerlussuaq (in Danish: Søndre Strømfjord) is a settlement in western Greenland, home to Greenland’s largest commercial airport. As usual, we were greeted by our friendly colleagues from the Kangerlussuaq Science Support Center (KISS) that supports all science operations in and around Greenland. Temperatures are getting much lower than down south at about 40F (5 degrees C). Kangerlussuaq is home to Greenland’s most diverse land-based wildlife such as musk oxen, caribou, gyrfalcons and the Greenland sled-dog.

Me and the Greenland sled-dog.

Next stop is the U.S. Air Force Base Thule in Northern Greenland, where we refuel and head to Alert. On the way from Kangerlussuaq to Thule we fly along the coast of Greenland, over Baffin Bay, where the Arctic starts to show its icy face. For me, Greenland is fascinating for its mild temperatures, diverse wildlife in the south and breathtaking frozen state in the north. I also like the Danish pastries served in the airport cafeteria – it reminds me of home.

Coast of northern Greenland

Finally, we arrive at the Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert around noon. Our home for the next few weeks.

Alert

Through the Looking Glass: Peering Through the Bottom of the Ocean

Future El Niño - Sun, 05/06/2012 - 04:02
Learning about how to take sediment cores.

Scientists aboard the R/V Langseth learn how to prepare sediment core tubes before they are lowered to the bottom of the ocean.

Sunset over the tropical Pacific Ocean. Deep below the waves, large mountains rise up above the seafloor.

Scientists monitor the echoes as they stream into the main lab aboard the R/V Langseth.

We are in the fifth day of our research cruise to the Line Islands and shipboard life is beginning to settle into a routine.  Most people have their ‘sea legs’ and our sleep schedules are adjusting to the midnight to noon or noon to midnight work shifts.  Meals are a time to catch up with scientist and crew, and the motivated scientists have begun regular exercise schedules in the ship’s gym.

As we steam over the incredibly wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the waves seem endless and monotonous, and the wind blows steadily from the same direction for days on end.  However, beneath us the seafloor is far from monotonous. Huge mountains rise 10,000 feet above the seafloor and create escarpments, ridges and valleys that would rival the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.  It is along these mountains that we hope to find sediment for our research.

Using scientific instruments we peer ‘through the looking glass’ to learn what the seafloor and sediments look like.  The analogy to the looking glass is apt: Alice stepped through the mirror to see the world beyond and we peer through the bottom of the ocean to see what is below.  However, unlike Alice, we use our ears.  Short pulses of sound from the ship are focused on the seafloor and we listen to the echo and reverberations that return to the ship.  Depending upon the pitch and intensity of the sound we can look at the top layer of the sediment or much deeper.

Sound pulses echo off the seafloor and are detected by our ship. The time it takes the pulses to return tells us how deep the seafloor and sediment layers are below the surface.

The most basic echo we listen to comes from the very top of the sediments.  This echo travels down through ocean, bounces off the top of the sediments and returns back to the ship.  We measure the time it takes to go down and come back up, and knowing how fast sound travels through seawater (~one mile per second or 3,400 miles per hour!) we can determine the distance to the bottom of the ocean.  The times are very short, about two seconds for water a mile deep.  We use these distances to construct a detailed map of the bottom of the ocean.  This map shows the mountains and valleys on the seafloor where we will take our sediment samples.  We also listen to how loud the echo is when it comes back to the ship.  Hard surfaces like rock have a loud echo while soft sediment gives a quiet echo.  This is an additional way to determine where there are ocean sediments to sample.

If we turn up the sound volume and use a lower pitch we can look beyond the seafloor into the sediments below.  Now rather than just one echo from the seafloor, we begin to hear many echos as sound reflects off the different layers in the sediments.  These echos allow us peer beneath the seafloor to know how thick the sediment is and whether it is nicely layered or jumbled and distorted.

When we find the right sediments—not too deep, smooth, with nice layers—we will take cores of the sediment to study the climate history preserved in the layers.

Side-looking map of Kingman Reef (part of the Line Islands) and the surrounding seamounts and valleys (colors indicate the depth of the seafloor, 5000 meters is over three miles). Robert Pockalny, a geophysicist from the University of Rhode Island, constructed this map from depths determined by sound pulses that echo off the sediment.

Calmer Seas Ahead

Sea Ice Blooms in the Far North - Fri, 05/04/2012 - 19:44
After a short break due to weather and a bit of fun with Styrofoam cups, we are back in the lab sampling phytoplankton in the Bering Sea. We are using a specialized instrument to determine how well these small plant-like creatures are able to photosynthesize in the ocean, and we continue to learn fun facts about fish larvae from our colleagues.

Exploring the Bering Sea Ecosystem

Sea Ice Blooms in the Far North - Thu, 05/03/2012 - 03:20
Our stations have continued to be rich in phytoplankton, while our colleagues are excited by the larval fish they are finding in the southern Bering Sea. Wildlife sightings have included whales, dolphin, and the jawless lamprey fish, and we are settling in for potentially bumpy seas ahead.

Switchyard 2012: Climate Change in the Arctic

Arctic summer sea ice is declining rapidly: a trend with enormous implications for global weather and climate. Now in its eighth year, the multi-year Arctic Switchyard project is tracking the Arctic seascape to distinguish the effects of natural climate variability from human-induced climate change. The University of Washington is leading the project.

A) The Canadian Forces Station, Alert

We will fly from the Canadian military base at Alert, Ellesmere Island, land on the ice by ski plane to drill holes, deploy instruments and retrieve water samples. We will measure water temperature, salt content and levels of dissolved oxygen, and a wide variety of natural and man-made substances. Our goal is to understand how much fresh water is entering the system, where it is coming from (sea ice melt, river run-off and so on) and where it exits the arctic, altering currents in the North Atlantic Ocean.

During the next few weeks we will blog from the field; Follow our work on the Arctic Switchyard project page.

Diatoms and Dessert

Sea Ice Blooms in the Far North - Tue, 05/01/2012 - 13:59
The lovely spring weather in New York City as I prepared for this cruise was difficult to leave behind, and it will be nearly summer once we return. In the Bering Sea, it still feels like winter. For the past two days we have sampled water out on deck with snowflakes falling from the sky.

Why I Care About the Bottom of the Ocean

Future El Niño - Mon, 04/30/2012 - 04:38

R/V Marcus G. Langseth docked in Honolulu, HI

R/V Marcus G. Langseth docked in Honolulu, Hawaii.

It is the middle of the night and I am wide awake thinking about the ocean, specifically the bottom of the ocean.  Is it rocky? Jumbled?  Smooth?  I am wondering this because I want to take samples of the seafloor to study.  Rocky is bad.  Jumbled is bad.  Smooth is good.

In one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons a woman says, “I don’t know why I don’t care about the bottom of the ocean, but I don’t.”  Well, for the next four weeks our research group will care a lot about the bottom of the ocean.  We are sailing to the middle of the Pacific Ocean where we hope to collect sediment to study how climate has changed in the past.  Our destination is a group of atolls and seamounts collectively known as the Line Islands.  They include Kingman Reef (U.S.A.), Palmyra Atoll (U.S.A.) and part of the island nation of Kiribati.

The ocean around the Line Islands is over two and a half miles deep (4 km)—too deep to preserve the climate changes we want to study.  So, we are going to take sediment cores on the flanks of the islands where the sediments are better preserved.  The flanks are also where a lot can happen to the sediments.  Slumps can break off huge chunks of sediment, ocean currents can erode the sediment and slumps from higher up the flank can deposit thick layers of sediment.  All of these happenings alter or erase the regular ordering of the sediment (the stratigraphy in geologists terms) and make them unusable for our research.  So, I am thinking about the bottom of the ocean.

Map showing the first part of our cruise aboard the Langseth. The shaded colors show the depth of the ocean (bathymetry) in meters. The red line shows where we will be heading in the next few days.

Our group is sailing on the research vessel (R/V) Marcus G. Langseth, an oceanographic research vessel operated by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (where I work).  The ship is a floating scientific laboratory, with the ability to study and take samples of the ocean water and sediments wherever we go.  The scientists on board include seventeen researchers from nine institutions.  In addition, there are 34 technicians and sailors who make sure the ship and scientific instruments are functioning properly so we can collect the data we need.  The moment we leave the dock in Hawaii will be the culmination of almost a year of planning, a lot of hard work by the crew of the Langseth, and financial support from the U.S. National Science Foundation.

Our goal for this cruise is to collect cores of deep ocean sediment that we can use to study the past behavior of El Niño as well as the climate of the tropical Pacific Ocean.  Although our studies focus on the Pacific Ocean, the results could tell us about many different areas of the globe. El Niño weather affects regions as far apart as Indonesia and New York State.  In fact, El Niño events are responsible for the largest year-to-year changes in global weather.  Our goal is to learn how El Niño has varied in the past so that we can develop better forecasts for the future of El Niño into the 21st century and beyond.

Over the next four weeks I will be writing a series of articles about our cruise.  Topics will include El Niño, life aboard the ship and how we actually collect water and sediment samples from the ocean. Stay tuned!

In the meantime you can track where we are online.

Passing Through

Sea Ice Blooms in the Far North - Sun, 04/29/2012 - 02:53
The sun rose above the back decks this morning as we traveled towards Pavlof Bay for our station. As we made our way through the Aleutian Islands, the peaks of active volcanoes Mount Pavlof and Pavlof’s Sister became visible above the clouds. The Aleutians are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, home to about... read more

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