From: Kevin Arrigo, Stanford University
68° 00’ W, 167° 30’ N, June 21 — When you plan a trip to the Arctic Ocean, you expect it to be cold. Perhaps bitter cold. And cloudy. And probably also windy with rough seas. Suffice it to say that the weather we have experienced the last few days is not at all what we expected. We have seen nothing but bright sunny skies, temperatures in the upper 50s and almost no wind— the ocean is a sheet of glass. At times it’s easy to forget that we are actually on a ship floating in a vast ocean. The stillness is beautiful, but also somewhat eerie because it seems so out of place.
Luckily, this means that conditions for deploying our wide array of instruments couldn’t be better. Getting things into and out of the water on a ship bouncing around in rough seas can be a real challenge. But so far, rough seas are nowhere to be found. Some of our instruments have even been able to measure the effect that this beautiful weather is having on the Arctic Ocean. As the sun beats down on the ocean surface, the water in the topmost layer heats up and we are able to measure its increase in temperature. In some places, we can also detect a thin layer of freshwater that comes from the rapid melting sea ice. Usually, this layer is not so obvious because the winds stir up the water column so much. Under such calm conditions, though, this warm and fresh layer is very easily detected.
We do realize, however, that our good fortune with the weather will not last forever. I expect that as we move further north we will encounter a more typical Arctic Ocean environment. But until that time arrives, we will just enjoy bathing in the anomalous sunshine!
Photos by Haley Smith Kingsland