UNH Researchers Go Polar

At the end of August, researchers from the University of New Hampshire were in the midst of a six week tour of the Arctic Ocean. One of them, Kevin Jerram, has been on several mapping expeditions before. His main research focus is the detection and characterization of marine gas seeps. The other researcher happened to be a 2015-2016 scholar at the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping Joint Hydrographic Center. Her name is Evgenia Bazhenova, and she studies marine sediment cores in the central part of the Arctic Ocean.

Myself, Jerram, Bazhenova, and nearly 70 other personnel took six weeks to travel through the Arctic Ocean on the Swedish icebreaker Oden, and they made a special stop in the North Pole.  Below are some of the beautiful pictures from this stop, taken by Jerram himself:

Techie Maps for Ocean Exploration

OceanThink about how many times you have used Google Maps to get around, just in the past year. Google Maps has become one of the most popular ways to find one’s way, as it is available as an app that helps people find their way in real time. Now, think about how a Google Maps approach could be used for Ocean Exploration. In order for safe ocean exploration to become standard, more than 5% of the ocean must be mapped. Therefore, scientists have turned to state-of-the-art technology to map sources of natural danger.

How are the scientists planning to accomplish this feat? They are planning to use advanced sonar on their roaming ships and other unmanned vessels. This sonar will allow the vehicles to pick up any natural ‘abnormality,’ such as foreign creatures, volcanoes, and strange changes in the sea floor. This advanced sonar is known as a multi-beam sonar, which can survey hundreds of meters of the sea floor at a time.

The deadline that scientists have given themselves to map out the entirety of the sea is the year 2030. As a Google Maps approach is being used, Google is offering help to the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans, which is overseeing the mapping efforts. This project should take precedence above all else.

If we look to history, we can find several instances of disasters and collisions occurring at sea because we do not have adequate knowledge of the layout of the sea floor. There have been underwater mountains struck that have resulted in deaths, for example, and much more. In order for ocean exploration to continue as a lucrative profession, scientists need knowledge about all of the terrain.

As we all know, a great deal of time and money all over the world is spent exploring space, while most of our planet remains unexplored and, therefore, not understood. I am of the firm belief that ocean exploration should be put above all else, including above space travel. When we finally choose to fully focus on exploring and mapping the seafloor, we will generate a further understanding of the planet Earth and what lies in its deepest crevices. This will make travel safer, and will be a huge leap forward for science.

Ocean Floor Should Be Mapped Like Space

OceanIt cannot be contested that research technology has come a long way. We are now able to garner vast amounts of information by running pieces of it through a program, or by manipulating a robot with human-esque hands to explore the depths of the ocean. In the field of space exploration, new technology has been a game changer. Researchers have been able to generate detailed maps of the moon and mars with modern technology. Unfortunately, only 5% of the ocean floor has been mapped with said technology. In order to truly be able to understand the ocean, we must survey it like we would survey, say, the moon.

I believe that, with international commitment and cooperation, we could map the entire ocean floor for around the cost of one mission to mars. The reasons to do this are insurmountable. For example, measurements of the ocean floor would allow us to properly discover its usability. Offshore wind farms would be much more plausible if we knew how each section of the world’s oceans are shaped, and how deep they are. Also, it is a matter of safety. Further understanding the ocean will lead to better predictability of potentially catastrophic weather events, such as storm surges.

Our lack of knowledge about the ocean floor has been an issue in the past. For example, remember the crash of airliner MH370? The Malaysian plane crashed in a part of the ocean that has not been mapped with modern technology. Therefore, the ocean floor in that area had to be mapped out during the search for the airliner, which was months of work that would have been unnecessary had we already known about the size and depths of the ocean.

Of course, obtaining this necessary information about the ocean will be time-consuming and costly. This is the main reason behind our lack of knowledge about much of the ocean floor. However, if simply having more knowledge about the ocean is our goal, there are ways to cut down on costs and researchers necessary to complete the task. Personally, I have suggested releasing a large, unscrewed barge carrying equipment that could explore the ocean for much less than the cost of a conventional mission. It would have a sonar to sweep the ocean floor, and be able to be controlled remotely, meaning that it would never have to enter port. This is the most viable option to explore the ocean floor while addressing the concerns of cost and manpower.

All in all, we need more knowledge of the ocean floor. It is not ideal to be living on a planet that is 70% water without knowing about the water. That basically means we don’t have concrete details about 70% of our planet. I believe if the international community can band together and commit itself to mapping the ocean floor, we can further utilize oceans to help the planet and make them safer overall.

Robots Explore Oceans

OceanOver the course of the past decade, technology has become a key tool to help with ocean exploration. We have gone from days of divers being the only resource made available to ocean scientists, to being able to send tools, such as observation sensors and communication methods, underwater. With them, accurate readings can be taken of phenomenon that exist deep below the ocean’s surface. This technology is only expanding. In the past month, robot ocean exploration has taken a new form for one exploration team – literally. In order to explore a shipwreck that has not been touched since 1664, experts sent a robot resembling a mermaid to the scene.

This unique ocean explorer is called ‘OceanOne.’ It has, in robot form, the torso and head of a human, complete with a robotic ‘face’ and arms. The bottom of this device holds the bulk of its power and intelligence, which rests inside its mermaid ‘tail.’ This robot can be guided from a boat above and can complete tasks in the water that before could only be fathomable by a human.

For example, from shipwrecks that are inaccessible to, or too dangerous for, divers, this robot is able to retrieve artifacts. It is the perfect combination of artificial intelligence, clever mechanics, and sensory feedback to make it gentle with delicate artifacts. It is able to move the artifacts into a box and subsequently carry said box to the surface of the ocean.

The ‘OceanOne’ is a truly revolutionary addition to ocean exploration technology. Humans have, for years, been using artificial intelligence technology to explore the unknown waters of the world. However, none have had all of the capabilities of this new, bright orange ‘mermaid.’ The ‘OceanOne’ is the first diving robot to have many of the capabilities of a human diver, complete with flexibility and dexterity formerly unknown to robots.

Additionally, the engineers who designed ‘OceanOne’ have made it so the person controlling the robot can also feel what it feels. They installed force sensors in the robot’s hand that makes up an interface with which a human can feel what the ‘OceanOne’ is feeling at any given time during its exploration.

The ‘OceanOne’ is truly the smart robot that ocean explorers need in order to be able to move forward with their work. It can adjust to its environment automatically, changing direction or adjusting the pressure of its grip with no prompting from its controller. Having more of these available in the ocean exploration field would give explorers the ability to discover formerly unknown marts of the ocean without putting themselves or any of their team in danger. I am truly excited to see how this diving robot affects the ocean exploration industry!

ArcticNet Meets to Discuss Climate Change

This week, many experienced Climate Scientists are convening in Vancouver to talk about climate change. ArcticNet is a conference that is held for such scientists annually in different locations, but this one is particularly daunting. The climate in the northern hemisphere is being altered rapidly, and the scientists are going over the repercussions to the Arctic if something is not changed immediately.

Of course, global climate change is affecting the entire earth. However, the Arctic is being affected by climate change much more quickly than any other part of the planet. By the year 2050, it is going to suffer from a temperature increase of at least 4 degrees if something is not done.

What are some of the things to be concerned about if greenhouse gas emissions are not regulated? ArcticNet came up with many answers. Scientists predict that the time snow spends on the ground will decrease by at least a month, and the amount of precipitation in seasons such as Spring and Fall will increase. This means that there will be a shorter period in which ice forms in the Arctic’s lakes and rivers. The Arctic may even have an entire summer without ice in its future.

Rapid change in the Arctic, of course, will affect other parts of the world as well. Sea levels are rising everywhere because the Arctic’s glaciers are melting faster than they have in 2,000 years. This increases the chance of more frequent and damaging storms, and the scientists cannot accurately predict exactly how the weather in specific regions will change. There is no doubting, however, that these changes will have a detrimental impact on wildlife in all affected regions. It will also, eventually, change how we must live our lives.

ArcticNet houses the largest community of arctic scientists in the world. The conference happens yearly so scientists can get together and discuss climate change and how it affects animal migration patterns, health, environment, and the community. This particular year’s conference was a pressing one because the situation in the Arctic is more dire than ever. However, the conference provides hope for the future. Not only are top scientists convening to see what can be done to prevent further climate change, but there are new young people joining this conference every year. A new generation is getting involved in saving the planet, and that provides hope that the fight against climate change will be continued for years to come.

For more information about the ArcticNet conference, go to CBC News.

2015 Summer the Arctic Sea Ice Was 4th Lowest on Record

This animation by NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio shows the progression of the Arctic sea ice cover from its wintertime maximum extent, reached on Feb. 25, 2015, to its yearly minimum, reached on Sept. 11, 2015. Since the beginning of the satellite era, the Arctic sea ice cover has now experienced its lowest extent on record this winter and it’s fourth lowest extent this summer.

NASA, in conjunction with the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, recently released an analysis of their satellite data, and declared that the 2015 Arctic sea ice minimum extent is the fourth lowest on record. On Sept. 11, 2015, the ice covered 1.7 million square miles (4.41 million square kilometers), which, to put into perspective, is 699,000 square miles (1.81 million square km) less than the average minimum for all years between 1981 and 2010. In the photo below, you can see that difference between the 1981-2010 average superimposed as a gold line over this years minimum.


Arctic sea ice cover is made of frozen seawater that floats on top of the ocean. It helps regulate the planet’s temperature by reflecting solar energy back to space, and the sea ice cap naturally grows and shrinks with the seasons. Progressive thinning of its extend means more open ocean as the melt eats away at the ice pack.

Due to the effects of climate change, the Arctic sea ice has been in decline since roughly the 1970s, but recent research reveals the thinning is actually accelerating. According to a study published in March in the journal The Cryosphere, September sea ice thinned a whopping 85 percent (from 9.8 feet to 1.4 feet, or 3 to 0.43 m) between 1975 and 2012. We’ve seen the 10 lowest minimum extents in satellite history in the last 11 years.

The record holder for the lease Arctic sea ice hit back in 2012, when the ice covered a mere 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million square km), but even back then scientists understood that the low was driven partially by an August storm. Low sea-ice minimum extent has historically been at least in part exacerbated by meteorological factors, but what is most concerning about this years numbers is that this was not the case this year.

There is an obvious ongoing downward trend in ice coverage. And worse, sea ice is becoming less and less resilient.

“The sea-ice cap, which used to be a solid sheet of ice, now is fragmented into smaller floes that are more exposed to warm ocean waters,” said Walt Meier, a sea ice scientist with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “In the past, Arctic sea ice was like a fortress. The ocean could only attack it from the sides. Now, it’s like the invaders have tunneled in from underneath and the ice pack melts from within.”

In June, Arctic ice was melting relatively slowly, but it sped up in July and continued through August. North of Alaska, an actual “hole” opened up in the ice pack covering the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, allowing the ocean to absorb even more heat leading to further melt.

Starting next week, NASA’s Operation IceBridge will be carrying out a series of flights over sea ice in the Arctic to validate satellite readings and provide insight into the impact of the recent melt on land and sea ice. Unfortunately, this continued degradation of the Arctic ice shown no sign of slowing.

Foxes In Sweden Making Comeback

Swedish Fox were on the verge of extinction, until of recent.

Swedish Arctic Fox

With the Arctic dissipating due to Global Warming, many animals are in danger of extinction including Polar Bears, Seals, and various other Arctic animals. One of Sweden’s most famous Arctic animals has been on the brink of extinction for over fifteen years. The Arctic Fox is a native of Sweden and is considered one of the most remarkable animals in all the Arctic. The Arctic Fox has the ability to not begin shivering until temperatures reach -94 degrees fahrenheit. They have adapted to even have fur on their paws for extra insulation. Their fur is also adaptable for different seasons, for camouflage. Their fur can range from grayish brown, to blue-gray, and all the way to Polar White.

Just around fifteen years ago, only one or two litters were known to have existed the entire year in Sweden. The reason for the huge decline in number of litters is the warm weather. The Foxes natural food sources had run scarce, which lead the foxes to starvation, hence leading to the population decline. Luckily for these Foxes, have been able to have a resurgence due to the abundance of food in the Northwestern region of Sweden. With so much food available, this year has been record breaking for the foxes, with 37 litters registered. With so many litters and dens recorded so far this year, researchers are excited about the fact that they are alive and well. Not only does this mean the fox population will continue to remain stable, but also means the food that they rely on is stable.

Having these foxes around will keep the Arctic ecosystem in line. Sweden and Norway are doing their part by making sure these animals will continue to remain well feed by providing a natural habitat for them to hunt and live. For more Arctic news and updates, please visit Dr. Larry Mayer’s Official Website.

Whales And Seals In Danger Due to Drilling

Bowhead Whale

This summer Royal Dutch Shell is planned to begin exploratory drilling in the US arctic which will harm and harass a great deal of the Arctic wildlife. After speaking with Shell, The Guardian explained, “Shell estimates its Arctic activities will expose more than 2,500 bowhead whales, more than 2,500 gray whales and more than 50,000 ringed seals to continuous sounds and pulsed sounds, deemed damaging enough to constitute harassment.”

What rises the biggest concern for scientists and activists of the Arctic is the fact that the Bowhead Whale population has already been steadily declining over the past several years, and this summer they will be affecting over 2,500 more whales. Although the harassment of the whales and other Arctic animals the Marine Mammal Protection Act states that ‘The government may allow for the taking or harassment of marine mammals, so long as the number taken is small and the impact on the species is negligible.’

As this drilling happens, the main concern is the noise that will be caused which harms the mammals hearing and can cause whales to go deaf. Whales use vibration to essentially live, the study by Ocean stated, “A deaf whale, is a dead whale.”

Not only are Whales going to be suffering, but also 50,000 gray seals are at risk for harassment and other problems. These seals will be pushed to other waters which they have yet to venture to resulting in death and other predators.

Also explained is how the Royal Dutch was given permission to drill, “On 11 May, the Obama administration gave the effective go-ahead when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved Shell’s exploration plan for the Chukchi Sea. Environmental groups described the move as reckless, and one that would likely lead to ecological disaster.”

For more Arctic news and updates, please visit Dr. Larry Mayer’s Official Website.

Shell To Begin Drilling In Arctic

After getting approval from President Obama and the United States, Shell has begun drilling in the Arctic which could cause a catastrophic ecological disaster. Scientists and environmentalists are scared of what can potentially happen due to the drilling, they explained, “Shell’s plan is risky and ill-conceived exploration, that could lead to a disaster in the Arctic. Instead of holding Shell accountable and moving the country towards a sustainable future, our federal regulators are catering to an ill-prepared company in a region that doesn’t tolerate cutting corners.” This was said by Tim Donaghy, a specialist and senior researcher at Greenpeace

Greenpeace and other Arctic organizations are concerned and upset with President Obama for allowing Shell to drill in these locations. The ecological risk has always been high and the group says Obama is looking the other way while they are drilling rather then working with the Greenpeace to resolve the issue.

According to The Guardian, “The environmentalists warn that drilling in the icy Arctic waters is likely to be much more dangerous than other more temperate seas, and could lead to disasters on an even greater scale than the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill that killed 11 people and spilled nearly 5m barrels of crude oil into the ocean. The nearest coast guard station with equipment for responding to a spill is more than 1,000 miles away.”

For more information on the arctic and the current situation, please visit Larry Mayer‘s official website.

Arctic Scare Increasing

Over the past two or three decades the notion of Global Warming has been a problem regarding melting sea ice and the rapid decline in Polar Bears. Even though these are major concerns in the environment, what is now a real cause for concern is the warm temperature in the Arctic has caused  the thawing of frozen soil. Frozen soil is a lighter term for permafrost, and permafrost emits carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. This emission can weaken the already beaten up Ozone Layer.

What makes researchers most nervous is, “There may be more than twice as much carbon contained in northern permafrost as there is in the atmosphere itself. That’s a staggering thought.” Even though there is already around 24% of permafrost currently emitted in the atmosphere, the idea of having close to or above 50% is frightening. 

Robert Max, senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center explained in detail how permafrost works and how environmentally devastating it can be. “As permafrost thaws, microbes start to chow down on the organic material that it contains, and as that material decomposes, it emits either carbon dioxide or methane. Experts think most of the release will take the form of carbon dioxide — the chief greenhouse gas driving global warming — but even a small fraction released as methane can have major consequences.”

The reason for high levels of carbon and methane in the melting Arctic is the amount of dead animals and plants which have decomposed in the frozen Arctic and are beginning to thaw and release all of these gases at once. Even though permafrost is not the greatest concern of the melting Arctic, it still posses a threat which gives concerns to many researchers and scientists.

For more Arctic news and updates, please visit Larry Mayer‘s official website.