NASA scientists working in the Arctic Ocean have discovered blooms of microscopic plantlike organisms living beneath the ice.
In the ICESCAPE (Impacts of Climate on EcoSystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment) project, researchers explored and sampled the area below the ice on the Chukchi Sea continental shelf north of Siberia. In their press release, the scientists called the discovery, "as unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert."
The finding revealed a new consequence of the Arctic's warming climate and provided an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology, NASA said in a statement.
"We embarked on ICESCAPE to validate our satellite ocean-observing data in an area of the Earth that is very difficult to get to. We wound up making a discovery that hopefully will help researchers and resource managers better understand the Arctic," Paula Bontempi, NASA's ocean biology and biogeochemistry program manager in Washington, said in the release.
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MSNBC reported the 60-mile stretch of phytoplankton megabloom under Arctic sea ice is a sign that the ice has been made thinner by warming temperatures and has created ideal conditions for the microscopic, single-cell plants to flourish. These megablooms were only thought to live in vast open oceans where they could receive unlimited amounts of sunlight.
To give weight to the importance of this discovery, Kevin Arrigo of Stanford University, leader of the ICESCAPE mission told the International Business Times, "If someone had asked me before the expedition whether we would see under-ice blooms, I would have told them it was impossible."
NASA shared more about their discovery in this video: