Characterization of underneath sea-ice light field variability in the Arctic Ocean using underwater and aerial autonomous vehicles
This project is part of the Université Laval / University of Tromsø research partnership.
Sea-ice is a central element of the Arctic environment. It strongly affects the exchange of heat and momentum between the atmosphere and the ocean. It also influences the dynamics of the ocean and of the atmosphere with global consequences. Sea-ice also strongly constrains the amount of sunlight that penetrates the ocean and then supports nearly all marine life. Arctic oceanographers considered that most biological activity takes place during the summer in open waters after the ice pack breaks up. During the past decade, scientific evidence shows marine microalgae biomass (mostly phytoplankton) developing to a significant extent under seaice during the spring season as well. Phytoplankton converts solar into chemical energy by transforming inorganic carbon (CO2) into organic carbon through photosynthesis, which is then transferred to the marine food chain. Understanding the dynamics of phytoplankton growth under sea-ice is key to determine the impact of climate change on marine life and carbon fluxes in Arctic.
The physical and optical properties of sea-ice, often covered by snow, modulate the amount of sunlight that penetrates into the ocean and supports photosynthesis. Sea-ice is a highly heterogeneous medium which makes it difficult to characterize the under-ice light field. Moreover, Arctic sea-ice is experiencing extensive changes due to climate changes: it gets thinner, younger, less extensive and more mobile. Also, snow accumulation on sea-ice is decreasing. The general objective of this 3-year transdisciplinary project is to develop a new approach for extensively documenting the under-ice light field in the Arctic ocean through a collaborative strategy based in technology development and scientific partnership between the arctic University of Norway (UiT) and Universite Laval.