Arctic Ocean Exploration and Deep Sea Research

Jeremy Potter tends the safety line for divers beneath the ice. Image courtesy of Elizabeth Calvert, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Ocean Exploration 2020:
The Arctic as a Priority

During the Ocean Exploration 2020 National Forum, held in July 2013 at the Aquarium of the Pacific, the Arctic was identified as an important exploration priority.

As Marcia McNutt conveyed in a recent editorial inScience Magazine, "the Arctic is a region likely to experience some of the most extreme climate change impacts. An ice-free ocean could affect weather patterns, sea conditions, and ecosystem dynamics and invite increases in shipping, tourism, energy extraction, and mining. Good decisions by Arctic nations on Arctic stewardship, emergency preparedness, economic development, and climate change adaptation will need to be informed by good science. Exploration of this frontier needs to happen now to provide a useful informational baseline for future decisions."

The Arctic Ocean is one of the most unexplored ocean areas on the planet – and is undergoing rapid environmental change. Before such change in the Arctic was garnering regular media headlines, the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) was sponsoring scientists (starting in 2001) in the collection of baseline data about marine life in sea ice, in the water column, and on the sea floor, as well as geological and morphological seafloor data in the ice-covered Arctic.

Scientific communities now generally agree that the Arctic is in need of additional measurements and observations to accurately monitor and predict future changes.  

NOAA envisions an Arctic where decisions and actions related to conservation, management, and use are based on sound science and support healthy, productive, and resilient communities and ecosystems. 

OER's aim is to continue to improve baseline biological, chemical, and geophysical observations and understanding of Arctic ecosystems and ecosystem processes through strategically planned and leveraged efforts, thereby enhancing NOAA's and the nation’s certainty in assessing and predicting impacts caused by a changing Arctic.


Arctic Highlights:

OER will exercise persistence in its efforts to increase understanding of the Arctic through charting of the Arctic region and exploration of science frontiers. We will continue to engage our federal and local partners, academia, non-governmental organizations, international entities and the private sector (a) to promote cooperation, leveraging, and sharing of data, observational platforms, and intellectual resources and (b) to facilitate more comprehensive attainment of NOAA’s Arctic science and ecosystem-based management goals (pdf, 1.2 Mb) and the National Arctic priorities (pdf, 479 kb).