Polar cod in jeopardy under the retreating Arctic sea ice.
ABSTRACT: The Arctic amplification of global warming is causing the Arctic-Atlantic ice edge to retreat at unprecedented rates. Here we show how variability and change in sea ice cover in the Barents Sea, the largest shelf sea of the Arctic, affect the population dynamics of a keystone species of the ice-associated food web, the polar cod (Boreogadus saida). The data-driven biophysical model of polar cod early life stages assembled here predicts a strong mechanistic link between survival and variation in ice cover and temperature, suggesting imminent recruitment collapse should the observed ice-reduction and heating continue. Backtracking of drifting eggs and larvae from observations also demonstrates a northward retreat of one of two clearly defined spawning assemblages, possibly in response to warming. With annual to decadal ice-predictions under development the mechanistic physical-biological links presented here represent a powerful tool for making long-term predictions for the propagation of polar cod stocks.
Project description:Each year, the arctic sea ice edge retreats from its winter maximum extent through the Seasonal Ice Zone (SIZ) to its summer minimum extent. On some days, this retreat happens at a rapid pace, while on other days, parts of the pan-arctic ice edge hardly move for periods of days up to 1.5 weeks. We term this stationary behavior "ice edge loitering," and identify areas that are more prone to loitering than others. Generally, about 20-25% of the SIZ area experiences loitering, most often only one time at any one location during the retreat season, but sometimes two or more times. The main mechanism controlling loitering is an interaction between surface winds and warm sea surface temperatures in areas from which the ice has already retreated. When retreat happens early enough to allow atmospheric warming of this open water, winds that force ice floes into this water cause melting. Thus, while individual ice floes are moving, the ice edge as a whole appears to loiter. The time scale of loitering is then naturally tied to the synoptic time scale of wind forcing. Perhaps surprisingly, the area of loitering in the arctic seas has not changed over the past 25 years, even as the SIZ area has grown. This is because rapid ice retreat happens most commonly late in the summer, when atmospheric warming of open water is weak. We speculate that loitering may have profound effects on both physical and biological conditions at the ice edge during the retreat season.
Project description:Arctic amplification of global warming has led to increased summer sea ice retreat, which influences gas exchange between the Arctic Ocean and the atmosphere where sea ice previously acted as a physical barrier. Indeed, recently observed enhanced atmospheric methane concentrations in Arctic regions with fractional sea-ice cover point to unexpected feedbacks in cycling of methane. We report on methane excess in sea ice-influenced water masses in the interior Arctic Ocean and provide evidence that sea ice is a potential source. We show that methane release from sea ice into the ocean occurs via brine drainage during freezing and melting i.e. in winter and spring. In summer under a fractional sea ice cover, reduced turbulence restricts gas transfer, then seawater acts as buffer in which methane remains entrained. However, in autumn and winter surface convection initiates pronounced efflux of methane from the ice covered ocean to the atmosphere. Our results demonstrate that sea ice-sourced methane cycles seasonally between sea ice, sea-ice-influenced seawater and the atmosphere, while the deeper ocean remains decoupled. Freshening due to summer sea ice retreat will enhance this decoupling, which restricts the capacity of the deeper Arctic Ocean to act as a sink for this greenhouse gas.
Project description:Mid-Holocene climate was characterized by strong summer solar heating that decreased Arctic sea ice cover. Motivated by recent studies identifying Arctic sea ice loss as a key driver of future climate change, we separate the influences of Arctic sea ice loss on mid-Holocene climate. By performing idealized climate model perturbation experiments, we show that Arctic sea ice loss causes zonally asymmetric surface temperature responses especially in winter: sea ice loss warms North America and the North Pacific, which would otherwise be much colder due to weaker winter insolation. In contrast, over East Asia, sea ice loss slightly decreases the temperature in early winter. These temperature responses are associated with the weakening of mid-high latitude westerlies and polar stratospheric warming. Sea ice loss also weakens the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation, although this weakening signal diminishes after 150-200 years of model integration. These results suggest that mid-Holocene climate changes should be interpreted in terms of both Arctic sea ice cover and insolation forcing.
Project description:Rising temperatures in the Arctic cause accelerated mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet and reduced sea ice cover. Tidewater outlet glaciers represent direct connections between glaciers and the ocean where melt rates at the ice-ocean interface are influenced by ocean temperature and circulation. However, few measurements exist near outlet glaciers from the northern coast towards the Arctic Ocean that has remained nearly permanently ice covered. Here we present hydrographic measurements along the terminus of a major retreating tidewater outlet glacier from Flade Isblink Ice Cap. We show that the region is characterized by a relatively large change of the seasonal freshwater content, corresponding to ~2?m of freshwater, and that solar heating during the short open water period results in surface layer temperatures above 1?°C. Observations of temperature and salinity supported that the outlet glacier is a floating ice shelf with near-glacial subsurface temperatures at the freezing point. Melting from the surface layer significantly influenced the ice foot morphology of the glacier terminus. Hence, melting of the tidewater outlet glacier was found to be critically dependent on the retreat of sea ice adjacent to the terminus and the duration of open water.
Project description:One of the recently recognised stressors in Arctic ecosystems concerns plastic litter. In this study, juvenile polar cod (Boreogadus saida) were investigated for the presence of plastics in their stomachs. Polar cod is considered a key species in the Arctic ecosystem. The fish were collected both directly from underneath the sea ice in the Eurasian Basin and in open waters around Svalbard. We analysed the stomachs of 72 individuals under a stereo microscope. Two stomachs contained non-fibrous microplastic particles. According to µFTIR analysis, the particles consisted of epoxy resin and a mix of Kaolin with polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Fibrous objects were excluded from this analysis to avoid bias due to contamination with airborne micro-fibres. A systematic investigation of the risk for secondary micro-fibre contamination during analytical procedures showed that precautionary measures in all procedural steps are critical. Based on the two non-fibrous objects found in polar cod stomachs, our results show that ingestion of microplastic particles by this ecologically important fish species is possible. With increasing human activity, plastic ingestion may act as an increasing stressor on polar cod in combination with ocean warming and sea-ice decline in peripheral regions of the Arctic Ocean. To fully assess the significance of this stressor and its spatial and temporal variability, future studies must apply a rigorous approach to avoid secondary pollution.
Project description:Ice-albedo feedback due to the albedo contrast between water and ice is a major factor in seasonal sea ice retreat, and has received increasing attention with the Arctic Ocean shifting to a seasonal ice cover. However, quantitative evaluation of such feedbacks is still insufficient. Here we provide quantitative evidence that heat input through the open water fraction is the primary driver of seasonal and interannual variations in Arctic sea ice retreat. Analyses of satellite data (1979-2014) and a simplified ice-upper ocean coupled model reveal that divergent ice motion in the early melt season triggers large-scale feedback which subsequently amplifies summer sea ice anomalies. The magnitude of divergence controlling the feedback has doubled since 2000 due to a more mobile ice cover, which can partly explain the recent drastic ice reduction in the Arctic Ocean.
Project description:Recent observations suggest that polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are increasingly using land habitats in some parts of their range, where they have minimal access to their preferred prey, likely in response to loss of their sea ice habitat associated with climatic warming. We used location data from female polar bears fit with satellite radio collars to compare land use patterns in the Chukchi Sea between two periods (1986-1995 and 2008-2013) when substantial summer sea-ice loss occurred. In both time periods, polar bears predominantly occupied sea-ice, although land was used during the summer sea-ice retreat and during the winter for maternal denning. However, the proportion of bears on land for > 7 days between August and October increased between the two periods from 20.0% to 38.9%, and the average duration on land increased by 30 days. The majority of bears that used land in the summer and for denning came to Wrangel and Herald Islands (Russia), highlighting the importance of these northernmost land habitats to Chukchi Sea polar bears. Where bears summered and denned, and how long they spent there, was related to the timing and duration of sea ice retreat. Our results are consistent with other studies supporting increased land use as a common response of polar bears to sea-ice loss. Implications of increased land use for Chukchi Sea polar bears are unclear, because a recent study observed no change in body condition or reproductive indices between the two periods considered here. This result suggests that the ecology of this region may provide a degree of resilience to sea ice loss. However, projections of continued sea ice loss suggest that polar bears in the Chukchi Sea and other parts of the Arctic may increasingly use land habitats in the future, which has the potential to increase nutritional stress and human-polar bear interactions.
Project description:Dimethylsulfide (DMS), a gas produced by marine microbial food webs, promotes aerosol formation in pristine atmospheres, altering cloud radiative forcing and precipitation. Recent studies suggest that DMS controls aerosol formation in the summertime Arctic atmosphere and call for an assessment of pan-Arctic DMS emission (EDMS) in a context of dramatic ecosystem changes. Using a remote sensing algorithm, we show that summertime EDMS from ice-free waters increased at a mean rate of 13.3 ± 6.7 Gg S decade-1 (?33% decade-1) north of 70°N between 1998 and 2016. This trend, mostly explained by the reduction in sea-ice extent, is consistent with independent atmospheric measurements showing an increasing trend of methane sulfonic acid, a DMS oxidation product. Extrapolation to an ice-free Arctic summer could imply a 2.4-fold (±1.2) increase in EDMS compared to present emission. However, unexpected regime shifts in Arctic geo- and ecosystems could result in future EDMS departure from the predicted range. Superimposed on the positive trend, EDMS shows substantial interannual changes and nonmonotonic multiyear trends, reflecting the interplay between physical forcing, ice retreat patterns, and phytoplankton productivity. Our results provide key constraints to determine whether increasing marine sulfur emissions, and resulting aerosol-cloud interactions, will moderate or accelerate Arctic warming in the context of sea-ice retreat and increasing low-level cloud cover.
Project description:Ongoing and projected greenhouse warming clearly manifests itself in the Arctic regions, which warm faster than any other part of the world. One of the key features of amplified Arctic warming concerns Arctic winter warming (AWW), which exceeds summer warming by at least a factor of 4. Here we use observation-driven reanalyses and state-of-the-art climate models in a variety of standardised climate change simulations to show that AWW is strongly linked to winter sea ice retreat through the associated release of surplus ocean heat gained in summer through the ice-albedo feedback (~25%), and to infrared radiation feedbacks (~75%). Arctic summer warming is surprisingly modest, even after summer sea ice has completely disappeared. Quantifying the seasonally varying changes in Arctic temperature and sea ice and the associated feedbacks helps to more accurately quantify the likelihood of Arctic's climate changes, and to assess their impact on local ecosystems and socio-economic activities.
Project description:In this work, we explore the seasonal relationships (i.e., the phenology) between sea ice retreat, sea surface temperature (SST), and atmospheric heat fluxes in the Pacific Sector of the Arctic Ocean, using satellite and reanalysis data. We find that where ice retreats early in most years, maximum summertime SSTs are usually warmer, relative to areas with later retreat. For any particular year, we find that anomalously early ice retreat generally leads to anomalously warm SSTs. However, this relationship is weak in the Chukchi Sea, where ocean advection plays a large role. It is also weak where retreat in a particular year happens earlier than usual, but still relatively late in the season, primarily because atmospheric heat fluxes are weak at that time. This result helps to explain the very different ocean warming responses found in two recent years with extreme ice retreat, 2007 and 2012. We also find that the timing of ice retreat impacts the date of maximum SST, owing to a change in the ocean surface buoyancy and momentum forcing that occurs in early August that we term the Late Summer Transition (LST). After the LST, enhanced mixing of the upper ocean leads to cooling of the ocean surface even while atmospheric heat fluxes are still weakly downward. Our results indicate that in the near-term, earlier ice retreat is likely to cause enhanced ocean surface warming in much of the Arctic Ocean, although not where ice retreat still occurs late in the season.