NASA | Massive Phytoplankton Bloom Discovered Under Arctic Sea Ice


[ Bells ] Scientists have found a massive phytoplankton bloom growing beneath sea ice in the Arctic. The discovery, captured on video and shown here, stunned scientists, as an under-ice bloom of this size has never been seen anywhere on the planet. The bloom was spotted last summer by a team of scientists collecting field measurements for NASA's ICESCAPE mission, which explores the effects of climate change in the Arctic. Sampling took place at multiple sites along two tracks of ice-covered water in the Chukchi Sea, just north of Alaska. According to observations, the bloom extended for more than 60 miles from the ice edge into the sea ice pack and concentrated in the top layers of water near the ocean surface. Video footage taken below the sea ice at two different study sites contrasts the Arctic's typically barren and dark blue water with the emerald shades of green produced when teeming with phytoplankton. The blooms consisted mainly of diatoms — microscopic plants that make up the base of the marine food chain and require large amounts of sunlight to grow.

Scientists previously thought blooms were limited to ice-free expanses of open water, where sunlight isn't reflected by sea ice and prevented from entering the ocean. But thinning ice and an increase in melt ponds has allowed more sunlight to reach the water below the sea ice in recent years, which may account for the presence of these massive blooms. If such blooms are widespread, scientists will have to evaluate the impact of these carbon-consumers on the amount of carbon dioxide entering the ocean, and what that means for our changing climate. [ Beeps ] .