ID:47 The Next Phase of the Synoptic Arctic Survey (SAS)

21 February 2023 | 08:30 - 10:00 (GMT+1)

Open Session - HYBRID


Room: Hörsaal 2


Session Conveners:  Øyvind Paasche (NORCE / Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway); Jacqueline Grebmeier (UMCES, United States); Are Olsen (UIB / Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway)


Session Abstract

The Arctic Ocean is changing fast and with far reaching consequences to the earth’s ecosystem. The scientific community is (has taken on the challenge) (focusing efforts) to adequately observe, interpret, understand, and project (or predict?) the system dynamics of the high Arctic. Pan-Arctic, quasi-synoptic surveys of key variables at periodic (here decadal) intervals are central to detecting ongoing, climate-driven changes. Collaboration across borders and ocean regions are key for progress, and national and international research must be conducted hand in hand. In 2015, the Synoptic Arctic Survey SAS) was established to develop coordinated activities for the collection of empirical data from the Arctic Ocean and to strengthen international collaboration to understand the impacts of climate change on the ecosystem and its connectivity to the world ocean. Cruises sponsored by 12 nations participated in pan-Arctic exploration of key Arctic regions in 2020-2022.

The SAS reached a new phase as 2022 comes to an end, with a number of cruises completed over the past two years. The result is a new and unparalleled dataset of the Arctic Ocean, covering critical areas and transects. We are working to evaluate and synthesize national and international findings and to make all data collected during the SAS-cruises available for community use. Some of the datasets are already available through national data portals or even global data portals, such as the Surface Ocean CO2 Atlas. Modeling of system components will be central to achieving an understanding of ongoing and future changes; such efforts must be developed to achieve the vision of the SAS.

Since the launch of the SAS’ Science and Implementation Plan in 2018, the overarching question has been “What are the present state and major ongoing transformations of the Arctic marine system? There are three scientific focal areas of SAS: (i) Physical oceanography, (ii) Marine Ecosystems, and (iii) Carbon cycle and acidification. In addition, training of the next generation of scientists as part of an international network has been a goal of the SAS effort. In this science session we will present preliminary results from all three themes and initial and ongoing collaborative syntheses and outline our efforts to establish “SAS→2030” as the decadal follow-up of the 2020-2022 cruises. Further information on the SAS program is available at the following website:



  • unfold_moreTaking the Pulse of the Arctic Ocean System, from the Shelves to the Pole – A US Contribution to the International Synoptic Arctic Survey Program

    Carin Ashjian1; Nicholas Bates2; Robert Campbell3; Lee W. Cooper4; Seth Danielson5; Lauren Juranek6; Elizabeth Labunski7; Sue E. Moore8; Cynthia Pilskaln9; Mary-Louise Timmermans10; Jacqueline M. Grebmeier4
    1Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; 2Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences; 3University of Rhode Island; 4University of Maryland; 5University of Alaska; 6Oregon State University; 7US Fish and Wildlife Service; 8University of Washington; 9University of Massachusetts; 10Yale University 


    The Central Arctic Ocean remains profoundly understudied, particularly with respect to carbon cycling, ecosystem alteration, and associated changes in atmospheric, ice and ocean physics that drive those biological and biogeochemical systems. The region is expected to experience continued marked changes over the coming decades, driven by ongoing climate warming. Yet, because of relatively limited understanding of fundamental characteristics and processes in the region, predicting these changes and their Pan-Arctic linkages remains difficult. The International Synoptic Arctic Survey (SAS; 2021-2022) effort seeks Pan-Arctic understanding of core ocean variables on a quasi-synoptic, spatially distributed basis using coordinated, international efforts. As a US contribution to the SAS, funded by the US National Science Foundation, an expedition to quantify the present states of the physical, biological, and biogeochemical systems of the Pacific Arctic (Chukchi Sea, Beaufort shelf/slope, Chukchi Borderlands) and Canadian Basin (i.e., the Makarov and Canada basins) was conducted from the USCGC Healy during September and October 2022. The research goals of the expedition were encompassed within the overarching SAS question “What is the present state, and what are the major ongoing transformations of the Arctic marine system?” An overview of the expedition and some preliminary observations obtained during the cruise will be presented.

  • unfold_moreShrink of an ocean gyre in the Pacific Arctic and Atlantification open a door of shadow zone

    Shigeto Nishino1; Jinyoung Jung2; Kyoung-Ho Cho2; William Williams3; Amane Fujiwara1; Akihiko Murata1; Motoyo Itoh1; Michio Aoyama4; Michiyo Yamamoto-Kawai5; Takashi Kikuchi1; Eun Jin Yang2; Sung-Ho Kang2
    1Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC); 2Korea Polar Research Institute; 3Fisheries and Oceans Canada; 4University of Tsukuba; 5Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology 


    The Arctic Ocean is now facing dramatic environmental and ecosystem changes. In this context, an international multiship survey project was undertaken in 2020 to obtain current baseline data. For the first time, extremely low dissolved oxygen and acidified water were found in a fishable area of the western Arctic Ocean. The data suggested that the Beaufort Gyre shrank to the east of an ocean ridge and formed a front between the water within the gyre and the water expanded from the eastern Arctic. That phenomenon triggered a frontal northward flow that was 2–3 times faster than before. This flow could transport the low oxygen and acidified water, which had ever appeared only in the shelf-slope of the East Siberian Sea, toward the fishable area.

  • unfold_morePlanning Factors for Arctic Cruises on Icebreakers

    Kenneth Boda
    U.S. Coast Guard


    The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy deployed to the high Arctic with the American contingent of the 2022 Synoptic Arctic Survey (SAS) initiative. Healy is a 128M icebreaker capable of transiting 3 knots through 1.4 meters of level ice. Coast Guard icebreakers have conducted polar science research since the 1950s, and Healy has supported science operations for 20 years. This SAS cruise builds on historic missions like the Distributed Biological Observatory program to document environmental changes in the Arctic region.

    Ensuring Healy is prepared for an extended deployment takes months of logistical planning and preparation. The harsh Arctic environment is rough on machinery and instrumentation; ingenuity, redundancy and good engineering practices allowed us to overcome casualties. As important as it is to meet the objectives of the science mission, it is also critical to establish an underway routine to ensure that personnel are aware of safety requirements and take full advantage of their time at sea.

    Healy encountered heavy weather conditions in the open water areas of the Chukchi Sea that made casting instruments over the side quite challenging. These strong winds persisted further north, causing the ice pack to converge, creating areas of heavy pressure, closing open water leads and slowing the transit of the ship. Despite these setbacks Healy completed over 50 science stations and employed icebreaking best practices to attain the North Pole on 31 September.

  • unfold_moreInto the deep Central Arctic Ocean – results from the Nansen Legacy Arctic Basin expedition 2021

    Agneta Fransson1; Melissa Chierici2; Marit Reigstad3; Bodil Bluhm3
    1Norwegian Polar Institute; 2Institute of Marine Research; 3UiT The Arctic University of Norway


    In August-September 2021, the Norwegian icebreaker R/V Kronprins Haakon sailed to the Central Arctic Ocean within the Nansen Legacy project, to investigate the deep and ice-covered Nansen and Amundsen basins. The purpose was to provide integrated scientific knowledge on the rapidly changing marine climate and ecosystem of the Nansen and Amundsen basins in order to facilitate sustainable management through the 21st century. The research focus was on physical, chemical and biological processes in the sea ice, water column and at the seafloor, in a climate change perspective. The expedition was a Norwegian contribution to the Synoptic Arctic Survey. We will present preliminary results from the water column carbonate chemistry, ocean acidification state and drivers.

  • unfold_moreSynoptic Arctic Survey: Initial results of late season phytoplankton bloom progression in the Pacific Arctic

    Clare Gaffey1; Lee W. Cooper2; Jacqueline M. Grebmeier2; Karen E. Frey1
    1Clark University; 2University of Maryland


    In recent years, alterations in phytoplankton phenology with the Pacific Arctic Region has been observed owing to decreased sea ice cover and accompanying hydrographic changes due to Arctic warming. Specifically, satellite remote sensing and field observations have detected an increased prevalence of fall phytoplankton blooms. Chlorophyll concentrations collected during two research cruises: the Distributed Biological Observatory study onboard the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier in July 2022 and the Synoptic Arctic Survey onboard the US Coast Guard Cutter Healy in September-October 2022 provide an opportunity to examine summer and fall bloom growth within the water column. This study will offer results of bloom progression and associated processes that link satellite remote sensing and field collected phytoplankton pigments using a method originally developed for the northern Bering Sea in the Pacific Arctic Region.