Boris Sirenko of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Sergey Yarosh of the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring haul in a benthic (sea bottom) trawl during the 2004 RUSALCA mission. Russia's Big Diomede Island (seen in the background) in the Bering Strait is only 4 kilometers (2.5) miles from America's Little Diomede Island. Credit: NOAA.
Russian-U.S. Arctic Census 2009
The RUSALCA mission set sail from Nome, Alaska, on the Russian research vessel (R/V) Professor Khromov on August 22 for a 40-day voyage into the Bering Strait and northwards to the Pacific side of the Arctic Ocean. RUSALCA stands for Russian-American Long Term Census of the Arctic; the word rusalca also means mermaid in Russian.
This mission is possible because NOAA and the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for World Ocean and Polar Regions Studies in 2003. From July 23 to September 6, 2004, the initial collaborative expedition studied the Bering and Chukchi seas. The area is considered particularly sensitive to global climate change, because it is a place where steep temperature, salinity, and nutrient gradients in the ocean meet equally steep temperature gradients in the atmosphere.
The Bering Strait acts as the only Pacific "gateway" into and out of the Arctic Ocean. As such, it is critical for the flux of heat between the Arctic and the rest of the world. Monitoring the flux of fresh water and salt water, as well as establishing benchmark information about the distribution and migration patterns of the life in these seas, are also essential. We need this information before we can place a climate-monitoring network in this region. Arctic scientists are continuously finding new, interesting — and sometimes even alarming — information about changes in the sea ice over time.
The 2009 expedition consists of two legs. On the first leg, from August 22 to 31, scientists will replace eight mooring buoys — the complete mooring chain across the Bering Strait from the United States to the Russian Federation. Data from this mooring array have revealed that water pouring in the Arctic from the Pacific is warming and freshening, and that it is likely contributing to the diminishment of sea ice cover on the Pacific Side of the Arctic Ocean. Partners in this Arctic Gateway flux program include NOAA, National Science Foundation, Russian Academy of Sciences, Roshydromet, and the Russian Federation Hydrographic Services.
The second leg will carry a team of about 50 scientists from the U.S., Russia, and South Korea. On this leg, scientists will track multiple environmental parameters, including seafloor flux of methane from thawing sub-ea permafrost, ocean currents, nutrient pathways, and changes in the benthic (bottom) and water-column ecosystems.
RUSALCA is managed by NOAA's Arctic Research Program with contribution from the Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, and by Group Alliance in Russia.
Click here for more information on previous RUSALCA activities.
Click here for a list of blog posts by Reuters reporter Jeffrey Jones, who is onboard the first leg of the 2009 RUSALCA expedition.
Click here to read a blog by Betty Carvellas, who is working with Jackie Grebmeier of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, and is aboard the expedition.
(Note: By following some of the links found on these pages, you will leave the U.S. Government's NOAA Ocean Explorer Web site.)
You can access the Ocean Explorer Russian-U.S. Arctic Census 2009 News Feed here:
Updates & Logs
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