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UGA-led team exploring ocean productivity near Thwaites Glacier

Alan Flurry

Scientists from around the globe have embarked upon the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration(ITGC), an expedition to the Amundsen Sea Polynya in western Antarctica that includes a research team led by UGA marine sciences professor Patricia Yager:

While an array of projects associated with the expedition are focused on sea level rise and the physical processes related to the melting, Yager is co-chief scientist and lead P.I. on the project ARTEMIS, designed to better understand the impact of melting glaciers and ice shelves, on the coastal ocean’s biological productivity.

Yager’s previous work in the region related the melting to the coastal productivity, the ecosystem, and the carbon cycle immediately adjacent to the ice shelf. Her team's research showed that the glacier melting was responsible for releasing iron, a limiting nutrient for the phytoplankton, triggering a bloom of algae. The rich ecosystem productivity of the Amundsen Sea Polynya acts as a massive sink for carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, cycling more CO2 per square meter by a factor of 10 compared to the rest of the Southern Ocean.

“So, it’s a very efficient and large carbon sink, in addition to being a really important ecosystem,” Yager said. “And we showed that that system is very dependent on the melting glacier.”

Her team is connecting the dots to understand how the melting glacier is feeding the bloom.

We'll be sharing periodic updates from the expedition for the next couple of months. Follow the real time progress and experiences of the team via Twitter @ARTEMISonICE and Instagram @artemisonice

Image of Thwaites Glacier ice shelf via NASA

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