7 September 2018

Zig zagging

Science is in full swing!

One of the questions we’re interested in answering out here is, “how does warm water from the Pacific enter the Arctic?” The warmest waters that flow through Bering Strait hug the coast of Alaska and flow north over Barrow Canyon. At the Chukchi Slope, where the bathymetry quickly deepens into the Canada Basin, the water diverges and flows along the slope either to the right or to the left.

For the past few days we’ve been hanging out to the left (west) of Barrow Canyon, zig-zagging across the shelf break as we tow our profiling instrument, the FastCTD from the starboard quarter of the ship. We’re looking for interesting features where it seems warm water is subducting and mixing with the cooler waters of the Beaufort Sea.

There is a lot of structure in the upper 50 m of the ocean along the slope, with filaments and eddying features of warm water. Tonight we’re transiting back to one of the more interesting areas and we’ll spend the next few days intensely sampling it with all of our tools. We’ll tow a microstructure instrument that will tell us how much turbulence is in the water masses beneath us and where it’s focused; off our bow we’ll hang a 20 meter long chain of temperature and salinity sensors to get a detailed look at the upper ocean; and we’ll deploy a small armada of drifters and Wave Gliders to track the surface currents and measure waves and surface features some distance away from the ship. On September 10th, we’ll be joined at our sampling location by a twin otter plane which will be taking images from above so that we’ll also be able to understand out ship’s position in the larger scale of features surrounding us.

Science is in full swing, but it’s about to get swingier.