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Shelf Basin Interactions Project (SBI)

The Western Arctic Shelf-Basin Interactions (SBI) project is a contribution of the Ocean-Atmosphere- Ice Interactions (OAII) component of the National Science Foundations (NSF) Arctic System Science (ARCSS) global change program. The overarching rationale for the Western Arctic SBI project is that global change will especially influence physical and biological linkages between arctic shelves and their adjacent ocean basins. As such, SBI field efforts will converge on the zone comprised of the outer shelf, shelf break and slope, where key processes control water mass exchange and biogeochemical cycles, and where the greatest responses to warming and altered arctic ice cover are expected. The Western Arctic SBI study area covers the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. It is anticipated that the understanding obtained will permit extrapolation to a Pan-Arctic perspective.

Project Objectives

The fundamental goal of the Shelf-Basin Interactions (SBI) program is to understand the physical and biogeochemical processes that link the arctic shelves, slopes, and deep basins within the context of global change. These processes strongly influence the biology, chemistry, and physics of the Arctic Ocean and its associated ecosystems. The Arctic marine system is linked to the global ocean and atmosphere by both physical and biogeochemical mechanisms, such as the influence that freshwater outflows from the Arctic have on North Atlantic convection and thermohaline circulation of the world ocean. Arctic Ocean waters are strongly influenced by biogeochemical processes occurring over the arctic shelves and a synoptic understanding of these processes is essential for predicting, anticipating and ameliorating the impacts of climate change. For example, carbon dioxide fluxes from sources or sinks on Arctic shelves may have direct impacts on air temperatures and sea ice coverage, with negative ramifications for local marine resources and human populations that are dependent upon them for subsistence. The SBI program will specifically focus on identifying processes that are sentinel indicators of global change, including alteration of current biogeochemical cycles. These include:

  1. Physical modifications of North Pacific and other waters on the Chukchi shelf and slope, since these modifications subsequently affect both exchange across the continental slope and the thermohaline structure and circulation of the Arctic Ocean.
  2. Biogeochemical modifications of North Pacific and other waters over the Chukchi and Beaufort shelf and slope areas, with an emphasis on carbon, nutrients, and key organisms that represent a suite of trophic levels.
  3. Comparative studies over the wide Chukchi and narrow Beaufort shelves and adjacent slopes to facilitate extrapolation of the Western Arctic work to a Pan-Arctic perspective. Modeling of shelf-basin exchange processes and their sensitivity to global change will be an important methodology in this extrapolation.
  4. Because of the markedly different summer and winter regimes in the Arctic, as well as the remarkable year-to-year variability, seasonal and interannual time series are required to identify the processes that control the functioning of the Arctic ecosystem. Therefore SBI will undertake time series studies to:

  5. Quantify the major physical processes over the shelf and slope and their variability, including resolution of smaller scale (< 30 km) physical exchange processes along the shelf break and slope, since these appear critical to the disposition within the Arctic Ocean of mass, heat, salt, carbon and nutrients, from the shelves.
  6. Quantify the major biological and chemical processes over the shelf and slope and their variability, since the timing of biological rate processes relative to physical transport processes is critical to understanding ecosystem dynamics.
  7. Quantify the export of mass, heat, salt, carbon and nutrients into the Arctic Ocean and their variability.

In summary, the goal of the SBI program is to provide a clear understanding of the physical and biogeochemical connections between the Arctic shelves, slopes, and deep basins that could be influenced by global change. The physical and chemical nature of seawater transiting the Western Arctic and entering the world ocean is defined by the physical and biogeochemical processes occurring over the large Western Arctic shelves. The current Arctic Ocean system and the cycling of carbon depends upon carbon export fluxes from the surrounding shelves. Changes in either the balance of shelf processes that modify the Pacific waters, or in the slope processes that control exchange with the deep basin, will likely result in major alterations of the Arctic marine environment. These alterations would also have significant societal consequences on local, regional, and national levels in areas as diverse as marine transporation, resource use, and climatic change. An understanding of these processes is therefore essential. This new understanding will in turn allow realistic assessment both of the potential responses of the Arctic system to global change, and of the role of these interactive processes on the global climate system.

Phase I Phase 1 involved regional historical data analysis, opportunistic field investigations, and modeling. A total of 18 Phase I Western Arctic Shelf-Basin Interaction (SBI) projects were funded, with 31 PI and co-PI's and various international collaborators. Funded projects include retrospective, experimental and modeling studies in fields of biological, chemical, geological and physical oceanography. More. . .

Phase II Phase II represents the intensive data collection period for SBI. Phase II was comprised of 3 years worth of cruises including four process-oriented cruises in May/June and July/August 2002 and 2004. Mooring cruises occured in late-summer to early fall each of the three years to place or turnaround moorings in both the Chukchi Sea and Bering Strait. Two additional survey missions were mounted in 2003, one by Helicopter in early spring and the other a 6-week cruise in mid-summer.More. . .

Phase III The essential aim of SBI Phase III is the integration and synthesis of SBI Phase I and II results with those of other projects into pan-arctic and global models in order to improve our understanding of the arctic system as a whole. More. . .

Documents/Publications This section includes PI contact information, project abstracts, documents related to project operations and science and links to publications and related websites. More. . .

Data Management News Data is now in the public domain for all cruises. Click on the Cruise Summary Info link to find specific information about each cruise including cruise reports, event logs, station maps and field catalogs. More. . .

Photo Gallery This is a collection of photos taken by participants from many of the SBI cruises. These photos depict conditions and scenery in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort Seas as well as people and life aboard the USCGC Healy during a research expedition. Credits and captions for photos are available when known. To suggest changes, please contact Greg Stossmeister (gstoss at ucar dot edu). More. . .

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