16 June, 1998
Late Monday the engines fired up and we have been steaming ever since. The current plan is to make for Hanna Shoal in order to get another good shallow water station for the CTD. It appears that the west wind has reduced the size of the polynya, which was 60 miles by 20 miles along a SW to NE axis when we were in it several days ago. Current microwave imaging shows that it has pretty well closed up but we are going to try and find an open piece of water to do a short water station.
I am starting a "Meet the Beakers" segment to my journal today and will briefly explain a little bit about each person and what they are doing on AWS 98. I hope to do the same for the "Coasties" and while I will not be able to cover the entire crew, I will attempt to give each department a fair shake.
MEET THE BEAKERS
The first group I will introduce is the 'Water People". As their name implies they are the folks investigating the water column and they do that by way of the fluorometer and CTD rosette. The fluorometer records the depths of algal peaks or high concentrations and the CTD rosette records the conductivity and temperature of the water column as a function of depth while allowing samples to be collected.
Tara Connelly is from Buffalo, NY and currently attends Florida State University at Tallahassee. She is a graduate student in Oceanography studying with Dr. Patricia Yager. Her area of interest and study is Arctic microbial ecology within the water column. Tara is attempting to catalog the most numerically abundant micro-critters in the water column and determine the path of carbon through them by way of a radioactive carbon isotope. Outside of school Tara enjoys skiing, biking, and playing ultimate Frisbee. Her favorite place to canoe is Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada.
Dr. Behzad Mortazavi is doing his post-doctoral studies at Florida State with Dr. Richard Iverson. Behzad is originally from Tehran, Iran and attended school in France before coming to the U.S. Behzad's work involves the determination of the chemical content of the water. In parcticular he is cataloging the nutrients and organic matter. The nutrients of specific interest are nitrogen- and phosphorus-containing compounds (NO2, NO3, NH4, and PO4) and the organic matter would be any carbon containing compounds that could be available for use by the microbial community in the water (sugars, amino acids, nucleic acids). Behzad enjoys animals and his 2 dogs; Ringo and Ginger occupy his time outside of school. Occasional horseback riding and fishing round out his leisure activities.
Dr. Patricia Yager or "Tish" as she is called on the ship, is a professor at Florida State and along with her research, teaches oceanography classes. Tish and her husband Steve will both be working at the University of Georgia, Athens this coming fall where she will continue with her oceanographic studies and Steve will be working as a geologist. When not separated by their work and travels they enjoy hiking, bird watching, and spending time together in the great outdoors. Her favorite place to be is Lopez Island in the Straits of San Juan de Fuca.
Tish is the reason both Behzad and Tara are here and has traveled to the Arctic numerous times aboard various ships. Her main area of interest is trying to find out more about carbon, both organic and inorganic. She is wonderful to listen to when she speaks of this element and it is easy to see that carbon is not a part time interest of hers.
According to Dr. Yager the carbon dioxide in our atmosphere has increased at a rate that mirrors the increase in fossil fuel consumption since the turn of the century. CO2 is one of the by-products of the combustion of any carbon based fuel and is put into the atmosphere by not only cars and planes but also all living things by the process of respiration. An interesting conundrum arises because the amount of human generated CO2 in the atmosphere, and other known storage areas, is less than what should be there given how much has been output by combustion processes. So there is almost a mystery at hand concerning where all the missing CO2 is, and when it will reappear. Tish is looking to the Arctic Ocean for the missing gas and that is where her work, and the work of others, is focused.
As was discussed in an earlier entry, the solubility of a gas in liquid increases as the temperature of the liquid decreases. Given the constant, relatively cold temperature of arctic waters, a lot of CO2 can be stored there. This solubility is one of the controlling factors of the CO2 equilibrium between the water and the atmosphere. It is thought that there is much more entering the arctic waters from the atmosphere than returning back. The other controlling factor has to do with the biology of the arctic waters and this is where ice algae and other water column producers come into play. Studies have shown that the summertime photosynthesis that takes place in arctic waters is many times greater than all the respiration. Since photosynthesis uses CO2 to produce O2 and respiration uses O2 to produce CO2 this indicates that when the sun is shining during the arctic summer, there is a bunch of O2 being manufactured and a bunch of CO2 being drawn out of the atmosphere.
At this point it seems that all is well and the mystery is solved. Well, not quite so fast. Where in the water column do most the photosynthesizing micro-critters live? What might happen to the inequality of water/atmosphere CO2 if the temperature of the waters rise a bit? What will happen to the photosynthetic rates of the various types of ice algae if the water temperature increases one degree Celsius? How does ice affect the interaction between the water and the atmosphere? If there were less ice, would more CO2 be released into the atmosphere? What is going on with the CO2 equilibrium during the winter months when the rate of photosynthesis is much less? What role do the ocean currents have in transporting dissolved CO2 from the arctic to other places on the planet?
These are the questions that members of the water group trying to answer. By identification of specific species, determination of nutrient pathways, and tracking the relative amounts of organic and inorganic nutrients present in the water column and bottom layer, Tish and her crew could help provide some answers to the carbon mystery of the arctic.
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