The Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA) is one of the crucial transport pathways connecting the Arctic and the North Atlantic. Estimates of up to a third of the freshwater transport leaving the Arctic flows through the CAA, primarily in the form of liquid water but also as sea ice. In recent years, the buildup of freshwater storage in the upper water column of the Beaufort Gyre has led to anticipation that there will be significantly increased freshwater outflow from the Arctic in the coming years. The critical question is when and where this increased outflow will occur. As part of the Northwest Passage Project (NPP), funded by the National Science Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation, and in collaboration with the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, undergraduate, graduate students, and early-career scientists from the US and Canada participated in an innovative 18-day research cruise into the CAA in summer 2019. Using hydrographic (CTD) and current velocity (Lowered-ADCP) measurements from the expedition, the NPP physical oceanography research team investigated the interaction between the Arctic and Atlantic water masses as well as the associated heat and freshwater transport in the Tallurutiup Imanga, Canada’s newly established National Marine Conservation Area in the eastern CAA.
In addition, the team will make use of bio-optical observations from the CTD, such as dissolved oxygen concentration and chlorophyll-a fluorescence, along with sea ice observations, to study the relationship between primary production and sea ice cover in this biologically diverse and ecologically sensitive part of the Arctic. Observational results will be compared with climatological measurements and recent changes discussed as they pertain to this unique Arctic ecosystem.