Sounding an Arctic Retreat

The Arctic doesn’t give up its secrets without a fight. A science team led by OSU oceanographer Kelly Falkner learned that the hard way last year when a sudden windstorm off the northern Greenland coast destroyed their tents and scattered debris for miles. No one was injured, but the incident underscored the dangers of working in a harsh environment.

Falkner is no stranger to such risks. Over the last ten years, she has helped to establish Arctic monitoring stations and flown to remote areas to collect water samples. As a professor in the College of Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, she traces the origins and changing circulation of Arctic waters by analyzing water chemistry.

“Ten percent of the world’s river water drains into the Arctic, which represents just one percent of the world’s ocean volumes,” Falkner says. “The water flowing out of the Arctic can have impacts on ocean circulation, and thus climate, throughout the world.”

“During our 2003 cruise to Nares Strait (between Greenland and Ellesmere Island), we were able to get our ship further into the Petermann Gletscher Fjord than any ship has ever gone before. This is because the floating tongues of the continental ice sheet are retreating all around Greenland more than they ever have in recorded human history.”

Since 1978, when satellite measurements of Arctic ice first became available, the overall ice cap has shrunk more than eight percent each decade.