Algal blooms

NASA hypes Arctic algal blooms as “unprecedented” but they are common

The NASA headline reads: “NASA Discovers Unprecedented Blooms of Ocean Plant Life.” Within the article we find:

“Scientists have made a biological discovery in Arctic Ocean waters as dramatic and unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert. A NASA-sponsored expedition punched through three-foot thick sea ice to find waters richer in microscopic marine plants, essential to all sea life, than any other ocean region on Earth. The finding reveals a new consequence of the Arctic’s warming climate and provides an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology.”

“If someone had asked me before the expedition whether we would see under-ice blooms, I would have told them it was impossible,” said Kevin Arrigo of Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., leader of the ICESCAPE mission and lead author of the new study. “This discovery was a complete surprise.” (See full article here)

Perhaps these NASA scientists should research the scientific literature more carefully. If they did, they might have discovered that Arctic algal blooms are not “unprecedented” or even unusual.

For instance, we have this paper from 1996 reporting on research in 1993:

Occurrence of an algal bloom under Arctic pack ice” by R. Gradinger, Marine Ecology Progress Series, Vol. 131.


“Summer melting of sea ice leads to the formation of under-ice melt ponds in Arctic seas. The biological characteristics of such a pond were studied in summer 1993. The chlorophyte Pyramimonas sp. (Prasinophyceae) formed a unialgal bloom with cell densities of 19.1 thousand cell per ml and a pigment concentration of 29.6 mg per cubic meter. A comparison with ice core data revealed differences in algal biomass and community structure. Physical data indicate that under-ice ponds are a common feature in the Arctic Ocean. Thus, communities within under-ice ponds, which have not been included in production estimates, may significantly contribute to the Arctic marine food web.”

I wonder if the Arizona Daily Star will, in a few days, report NASA’s “unprecedented” discovery just as the Star uncritically reported the last NASA “unprecedented” claim: Greenland “melting” and media hype.


See also:
The Arctic-Antarctic seesaw
Arctic ice reached record low extent in 2012 – or maybe not