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Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans






1-21 pp.


Novel observations of the seasonal evolution of an ice algal bloom on the Chukchi shelf were collected by two autonomous buoys deployed 180 km apart in first-year drifting sea ice. High attenuation of blue light in the bottom of the ice indicated considerable accumulation of ice algae biomass with derived Chlorophyll-a concentrations (Chl a) up to 184 mg m−2. Differences in the magnitude and persistence of ice algae biomass under each buoy appear to have been driven by differences in snow thickness, as ice thickness was similar between the sites. Minimal snow cover (0.02 m) around one buoy was associated with algae growth beginning in mid-May and lasting 70 days. The second buoy had notably more snow (0.4 m), causing ice algae production to lag behind the first site by approximately 4 weeks. The delay in growth diminished the peak of ice algae Chl a and duration compared to the first site. Light attenuation through the ice was intense enough at both buoys to have a potentially inhibiting impact on water column phytoplankton Chl a. Modeling ice algae growth with observed light intensities determined that nutrients were the limiting resource at the low snow site. In contrast, the algae at the high snow site were light-limited and never nutrient-limited. These data point toward changes in ice algae phenology with an earlier and longer window for growth; and nutrients rather than light determining the longevity and magnitude of production.


© 2022 The Authors.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

Data Availability

Article states: "The observational data collected by the buoys are available at NSF Arctic Data Center via (Hill et al., 2020)."

Original Publication Citation

Hill, V., Light, B., Steele, M., & Sybrandy, A. L. Contrasting sea‐ice algae blooms in a changing Arctic documented by autonomous drifting buoys. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 127(7), Article e2021JC017848.

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