It's been a couple of weeks since the USCGC Healy has been cruising the Arctic (Beaufort Sea mostly) for Arctic West Summer (AWS) 2013, and a lot of science is being done as we speak. I'm getting first-hand reports from Ben Pelto - glaciologist and glacier change archiver Mauri Pelto's son - a grad student studying paleoclimate who is working on his M.S. at UMass Amherst. Yesterday he sent me this wonderful picture with a polar bear in the middle:
The picture was taken 70 miles off the coast, west of the Mackenzie river, and it shows in how good a shape the sea ice is in this part of the Arctic, where it was actually quite thin at the start of the melting season. Expectations were that a lot of it would melt out, just like last year when the ice was supposedly thicker, but the weather has been so cold and cloudy - except perhaps for a brief one week spell of clear skies - that a lot of the ice has survived and is still blocking the western entrance of the Northwest Passage, which is almost certainly not going to open up for the first time in 5 years (more on that next week). We'll have to see what this will mean for the coming freezing season and next year's melting season.
To get back to the Healy: a lot of interesting science is being done, mainly collecting sediment cores for a research project that focuses on the causes of the Younger Dryas period. For people who are interested in what's being done exactly on the Healy, there's quite a bit of blogging activity this year from the ship, for instance by Healy's public affairs officer, a 16-year old high school student called Alan Guo, and this one by Danny Blas, a teacher from California, who fills his blog with entertaining videos such as the one below: