Though the stark landscape looks barren at first glance, microscopic marine plants flourish beneath the ice that covers the Greenland Sea.
Though the stark landscape looks barren at first glance, microscopic marine plants flourish beneath the ice that covers the Greenland Sea, according to a new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. These phytoplankton create the energy that fuels ocean ecosystems, and the study found that half of this energy is produced under the sea ice in late winter and early spring, and the other half at the edge of the ice in spring.
The researchers pioneered new technology and methods to make this discovery. About 4,000 oceanographic instruments called Argo floats are currently bobbing around the global ocean, moving between the deep sea and surface as they take vital measurements such as water temperature and salinity. This study used some of the first floats equipped to navigate icy waters and measure biogeochemical properties like nutrient concentrations and phytoplankton biomass. The floats sampled in the difficult conditions around and below the Greenland Sea ice continuously for four years, giving the researchers an unprecedented and invaluable look at this previously impenetrable region.
“These floats gave us the opportunity to gather data through the annual cycle and across multiple years, which is crucial for understanding this changing region,” said Paty Matrai, Bigelow Laboratory senior research scientist and study author.
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