What is IPY
There are many skills that early career polar researchers require for the basis of a strong career. To help address this, the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists (APECS), together with the ArcticNet Student Association, and the Northern Research Forum held the IPY International Early Career Researcher Symposium, held in Victoria, B.C, Canada from December 4-8, which was sponsored mainly by the IPY Canadian Federal Programme and the Canadian Polar Research Commission. This career development workshop bought together 71 participants and 20 mentors from 14 different countries.
The Symposium brought together early career polar researchers from a range of disciplines for a series of training sessions to develop professional skills, work with senior mentors, and develop international and interdisciplinary collaborations. This Symposium had seven themed sessions, all of which included a plenary talk attended by all symposium participants, and a hands-on training session. All plenary talks and breakout sessions were recorded, and recordings will be available on the APECS website by June (www.apecs.is/workshops/victoria09). In addition, the Symposium organizers hired a conference facilitator, who lead icebreaker activities, and discussed different personality traits and how they affect different peoples perception.
The evaluations from both participants and mentors have been extremely positive, with the vast majority ranking the quality of the breakout sessions as "Good" or "Excellent". Participants of the workshop said that less than 20% of what they learned from the three days together had been taught in their graduate programs and all stated the need for more events like this on an international and interdisciplinary level.
To read a full summary outling the Symposium click here.
Photo: Schools On Board
Last week, we celebrated our March Polar week on the theme ‘What Happens At The Poles Affects Us All’ with many participants from across the globe. Several APECS members participated by giving public lectures (in Norway, New Zealand, Romania, Sweden, Germany and Portugal) as part of our international lecture series and we had live webstreaming from the State of the Arctic conference in Miami throughout the week.
On Tuesday, 16th March we had a call connecting students at the University of Zambia to a Portuguese scientist, recently returned from Antarctica. The students were very concerned about the impact of climate change in Zambia, sharing with us some of the changes they have seen which include the dramatic increase in malaria and the decrease of several key species such as buffalo.
On Friday, students from Brazil, Nunavut and Malaysia, together with an Antarctic marine biologist and an Elder from Inuvik in the Northwest Territories discussed the importance of the Polar Regions. The students exchanged information on what changes they have seen in terms of climate and how this impacts on their daily lives. These students now hope to continue this exchange of information in the months to come.
These are just a few of the highlights from Polar Week and we would like to thank everyone who participated and for sharing their stories and pictures with us, all of which can now be found on our Polar Week Stories page.
In yesterday's post, we focused on phytoplankton growth in the Southern Ocean, the role of iron in limiting or favoring that growth and the importance of those Southern Ocean biological processes in the global carbon cycle. Today we explore the role of winds in the same region - the Southern Ocean - and again the importance of processes in that region for the global carbon cycle.
In a paper published 14 March 2010, oceanographers from Australia and the USA have examined processes that mix the upper ocean in the regions around Antarctica. Shallow stable mixed layers act as barriers between the atmosphere and the deep ocean, but deep mixed layers can act as gateways between the atmosphere and the interior ocean. Through strong winds and deep mixing in the Southern Oceans (oceanographers use the term 'ventilation'), heat and carbon can move from the atmosphere into the global oceans. The image below shows how deep mixing occurs in a band around Antarctica during the winter - red values indicate mixing to depths of 300 to 500 meters.
Deep mixing can have a complicated impact on Southern Ocean biological systems, and particularly on the phytoplankton. Mixing can bring up more nutrients from below, but it can also mix the plants down below the zone where they have enough light to grow. Near Antarctica, the mixing can have very different effects in summer than in winter. This paper identifies stronger winds and deeper mixed layers as a recent trend, and the authors say: "Our results suggest that changes in the [Southern Ocean wind regime], including recent and projected trends attributed to human activity, drive variations in Southern Ocean mixed-layer depth, with consequences for air–sea exchange, ocean sequestration of heat and carbon, and biological productivity." What happens at the poles affects us all!
In the Southern Ocean, occasional abundant growth of tiny plants, phytoplankton, can pull CO2 from the atmosphere. When those plants sink, directly or after serving as food for larger organisms, the Southern Ocean system becomes a net carbon sink, a place where carbon leaves the atmosphere for long-term storage in ocean sediments. Thus, what happens in the Southern Ocean ecosystems affects us all.
In a paper published 14 March 2010, French and Australian researchers have used new IPY measurements of iron in the Southern Ocean (from the IPY Geotraces Project) to test and validate a new model for sources of iron in the Southern Ocean - phytoplankton depend on iron for growth. These researchers have suggested that in addition to iron delivered from above (in atmospheric dust) and from the ocean floor (in resuspended sediments), iron from hydrothermal activity on the ocean floor can increase the Southern Ocean carbon export (sinkage) by 10 to 15%, and by up to 30% in some regions of the Southern Ocean. The figure below shows a model of dissovled iron in the Pacific, with an enrichment (yellow) clearly visible in the Southern Ocean.
The authors say "Marine productivity in the Southern Ocean is limited by the availability of iron and this region is critical in governing atmospheric CO2 levels. Given its importance in controlling ocean [dissolved iron], hydrothermalism should be included in our understanding of the Southern Ocean [dissolved iron] cycle." Read more about this topic in Nature Geoscience.
In a paper in the journal Science, published on 5 March, researchers from Russia, Sweden and the USA reported their results from 5000 at-sea measurements of dissolved methane in the coastal waters off of Eastern Siberia. They showed that most of the bottom waters and more than half of the surface waters of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf contained supersaturations of methane - a supersaturation represents more methane than expected and indicates a source other than the atmosphere. They determined that the methane entered the ocean waters from below, from the large reserviors of methane and other carbon in the sub-sea permafrost.
In places, they also observed high concentrations of methane in the atmosphere, methane that had first entered the ocean and then escaped to the atmosphere - see the figure below.
Because methane becomes a global greenhouse gas, release of methane from any northern sources, the sub-sea permafrost or the land permafrost, will have global impact. What happens at the poles affects us all! The authors of this study conclude "Leakage of methane through shallow ESAS waters needs to be considered in interactions between the biogeosphere and a warming Arctic climate." Indeed!
For more information, see this USA National Science Foundation announcement. For background information, and for the source of the image used here, see this WWF Report, 'Arctic Climate Feedbacks: Global Implications'.
Please join us in celebrating IPY Polar Week throughout this week and launch a virtual balloon to show your participation! Please take a look at the March Polar Week pages for all the ways you can get involved. For example, today (Tuesday 16th March), from 1230 UTC, and for the rest of the week, the State of the Arctic conference will be webstreamed and will allow virtual participation for classrooms, general public and anyone interested in Arctic science, policy and people. We will have students from Zambia connecting to a Portuguese scientist currently in the UK, as well as several public lectures taking place across the globe and lots of classroom activities for you to try out! Information on all of the above and more can be found at http://www.ipy.org/hidden/item/2293-march-polar-week-2010-what-happens-at-the-poles-affects-us-all
We hope you enjoy celebrating IPY Polar Week with us!
A very large iceberg, measuring 78 kilometres long and 39 kilometres wide has broken off from the Mertz Glacier Tongue in the Australian Antarctic Territory after another iceberg measuring 97 kilometres long (B9B) collided with it on the 12th or 13th of February. The event was discovered by Australian and French researchers during a joint study that began in 2007 during the International Polar Year.
For further information on this event, please visit the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) website at http://www.acecrc.org.au/drawpage.cgi?pid=news&sid=news_media&aid=797707 or the Austrlian Antarctic Division's website at http://www.aad.gov.au/default.asp?casid=37551. You may also view images and a more in-depth description of the event in the media release here.
Photo: Neil Young
Photo: Neil Young
Photo: Barbara Wienecke, Mertz Glacier Tongue
Canadian IPY researchers gathered in Ottawa, Canada, to report their IPY activities and to share initial results and highlights.
More than 250 people gathered in Ottawa, Canada, for an IPY Early Results Workshop. Stimulated and organized by the Government of Canada Program for IPY, the workshop allowed leaders of more than 50 Canadian-led IPY projects to report their activities and share their initial results and highlights. One could hear the latest research news in sea ice, ocean circulation, atmospheric transport of contaminants, marine ecosystems, freshwater ecosystems, hydrology, butterflies, permafrost, caribou, vegetation, sea birds, and northern health - fresh views of the many facets of Arctic systems. Although focused within the broad Arctic expanses of Canada, most of these projects had extensive international connections and partnerships. One heard many references to activities and presentations planned for the Oslo Science Conference in June 2010, as well as growing interest and an emerging vision for the Canada 2012 IPY conference planned for April 2012 in Montreal.