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Media Advisory


NSF PA/M 04-21 - June 17, 2004

NSF'S North Pole Researchers Study Climate Change in the Arctic

a suite of instruments attached to a mooring cable
For the past five years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has supported an international and interagency team of researchers, led by investigators at the University of Washington, who are studying the physical properties of the Arctic Ocean and the potential effects of changes in the Arctic on global climate. Among the various tools they use are a suite of instruments attached to a mooring cable. The cable is as long as Mt. Rainier is tall. The mooring, deployed from a temporary camp at the Pole, keeps the instruments in place and collecting temperature, ice-thickness and other data for a full year.
Credit: Trent Schindler / National Science Foundation
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instrument that measures ice movement
This instrument, one of 17 deployed this spring, measures ocean currents and speed and direction of ice movement.
Credit: Trent Schindler / National Science Foundation
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(Size: 156KB)

Larger versions (Total Size: 418KB) of all images from this document

 Note About Images

Photo of reseearcher and array

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Credit: National Science Foundation

Video/Animation Available:
Broadcasters: For B-roll on beta SP, contact Dena Headlee, (703) 292-7739, A streaming media version of the entire package may be viewed from this page, at bottom right.

Graphics editors:
For a cross-section, at print resolution, of the North Pole mooring camp and an image of a representative instrument used in the observatory, contact Peter West, (703) 292-7761

Long before a Hollywood blockbuster about catastrophic climate change packed cinema multiplexes this spring, researchers at the top of the world, supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), were using an array of scientific tools to build a comprehensive scientific picture of environmental change in the Arctic and what it may mean for the rest of the globe.

Led by oceanographer James Morison, of the University of Washington, NSF- supported scientists from Oregon State University, as well as others supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Naval Post-graduate School, and the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center, are conducting an array of experiments at the North Pole to understand this little-known, but extremely important region.

The Polar regions, scientists believe, will sound the earliest warnings that changes in global climate are underway and, in recent years, the Arctic has experienced a well-documented warming trend. Whether this change is permanent or part of a cycle and what the potential effects of a warmer Arctic Ocean could be are questions the team hopes to answer.

NSF, which funds the North Pole Environmental Observatory (NPEO) through its Office of Polar Programs, is making available video of the researchers working at the Pole, interviews with key NPEO scientists at the Pole and an animation of a mooring string scientists use to place instruments there.

The mooring collects and measures ice thickness and movement, water temperature and salinity, and the speed and direction of underwater polar currents for a year. In keeping with the global scale of the project, the mooring string stretches more than 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles) from the bottom of the Arctic Ocean to within feet of the constantly shifting polar ice pack. That's longer than Mt. Rainier is high.

In addition to the mooring, scientists with Morison's group are drilling through ice often more than 3.6 meters (12 feet) thick to install NOAA buoys that measure air temperatures through the ice cover.

They also are imbedding automated sensors into the sea ice to send the detectors on a trek thousands of meters long, from the North Pole to Greenland, to measure heat fluctuations in the upper ocean. Subtle changes in these temperatures can mean large variations in the thickness of ice that covers the ocean.

Finally, Morison and colleague Kelly Falkner, of Oregon State University, fly a small aircraft along a line several thousand kilometers long from which they take seawater samples from 1,000 meters below the surface for chemical analysis.


Thursday, June 17, 2:15 – 2:30 p.m. ET IA 6, Tr. 15, DL 4000
** IA 6 Formerly known as Telstar 6**

Technical Info DURING FEED ONLY, NBN, TOC, (212) 684–8910 x 221

On left hand panel of Pathfire, double click on News Broadcast Network, Story # NBN 23365. This story will be available after 4 PM ET on Wednesday, June 16.

Hard Copy Information: Shannon Speck, (800) 920 – 6397
Editorial Contact: Peter West, (703) 292 -7761

For more information contact:

Media contact:

 Peter West

 (703) 292-7761


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