USGS - science for a changing world

U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 748

USGS Arctic Ocean Carbon Cruise 2011: Field Activity H-01-11-AR to Collect Carbon Data in the Arctic Ocean, August - September 2011

By Lisa L. Robbins,1 Kimberly K. Yates,1 Paul O. Knorr,1Jonathan Wynn,2 John Lisle1, Brian Buczkowski 3, Barbara Moore4 , Larry Mayer5 , Andrew Armstrong6, Robert H. Byrne7, and Xuewu Liu 7

1U.S. Geological Survey, St. Petersburg, Fla.
2University of South Florida, Department of Geology, Tampa, Fla.
3U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole, Mass.
4National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, Md.
5University of New Hampshire, Durham, N.H.
6National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Durham, N.H.
7University of South Florida, College of Marine Science, St. Petersburg, Fla.

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center

Publications are available from USGS Information Services, Box 25286, Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225-0046 (telephone 1-888-ASK-USGS; e-mail:

Home | Acronyms | Contents | Methods | Data | Metadata | Maps | Index

Page Contents:

Information Statement

System Requirements


Healy 2011 Cruise

Overview of Data Collected

Suggested Citation

References Cited

    Study Area Map

Information Statement

This database, identified as U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 748, has been approved for release and publication by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Although this database has been subjected to rigorous review and is substantially complete, the USGS reserves the right to revise the data pursuant to further analysis and review. Furthermore, it is released on condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government may be held liable for any damages resulting from its authorized or unauthorized use.

System Requirements

This disc is readable on any computing platform that has standard CD driver software installed. The minimum software requirements are a Web browser, a portable document format (PDF) reader, and a text editor. If you cannot fully access the information on this page, please contact USGS Information Services at or 1-888-ASK-USGS.


Ocean Acidification

Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is absorbed at the surface of the ocean by reacting with seawater to form a weak, naturally occurring acid called carbonic acid. As atmospheric carbon dioxide increases, the concentration of carbonic acid in seawater also increases, causing a decrease in ocean pH and carbonate mineral saturation states, a process known as ocean acidification. The oceans have absorbed approximately 525 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or about one-quarter to one-third of the anthropogenic carbon emissions released since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (Sabine and others, 2004). Global surveys of ocean chemistry have revealed that seawater pH has decreased by about 0.1 units (from a pH of 8.2 to 8.1) since the 1700s due to absorption of carbon dioxide (Caldeira and Wickett, 2003; Orr and others, 2005; Raven and others, 2005). Modeling studies, based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) CO2 emission scenarios, predict that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels could reach more than 500 parts per million (ppm) by the middle of this century and 800 ppm by the year 2100, causing an additional decrease in surface water pH of 0.3 pH units. Ocean acidification is a global threat and is already having profound and deleterious effects on the geology, biology, chemistry, and socioeconomic resources of coastal and marine habitats (Raven and others, 2005; Ruttiman, 2006). The polar and sub-polar seas have been identified as the bellwethers for global ocean acidification.

Arctic Ocean

Study Area Map  

Figure 1. Study area in Arctic Ocean. Land is brown, shallow water is light blue, deeper water is dark blue.

The Arctic Ocean covers an area of approximately 14,056,000 square kilometers (km2) (fig. 1), has a fairly constant temperature of 0 degrees Celsius (°C), and supports some of the most and least productive marine areas in the world. Its cold waters absorb carbon dioxide more rapidly than it is absorbed by warmer seawater. An increase in temperature of approximately 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (°F), over the past 150 years, has increased melting of Arctic ice. Until recently, the perennial ice cover has prohibited significant equilibration of CO2 with the atmosphere, creating a polar mixed layer that has lower partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) levels than those found in the atmosphere. Over the last three decades, retreat of summertime sea ice cover has exposed shelf waters to the atmosphere and has allowed additional absorption of atmospheric CO2. The combination of these processes accelerates the rate at which pH and carbonate mineral saturation state decrease (Bates and others, 2006). Models have projected that the entire Arctic Ocean will become undersaturated with respect to carbonate minerals in the next decade (Orr and others, 2005; Steinacher and others 2009a,b). However, some recent field results indicate that parts of the Arctic Ocean may already be undersaturated in the late summer months, when ice melt is at its largest extent (Olaffson and others, 2009; Yamamoto-Kawai and others, 2009). The uncertainty of the models is based on lack of data. A high spatial resolution approach to measuring the chemistry of the Arctic Ocean has not been attempted, and baselines to gage future change have not been established. The Arctic Ocean is a key area in which expanded time series studies of coastal and open ocean seawater chemistry will provide critical information to scientists and decision-makers to monitor the progress of ocean acidification and place it in context with other global climate change studies (Robbins and others, 2010).

A number of studies have shown that decreased pH and mineral saturation state impair the ability of many fish and shellfish to grow and will affect many parts of the food chain from primary producers to higher trophic organisms (Comeau and others, 2009). High-latitude marine organisms often exhibit low metabolic rates and very slow development and growth rates when compared with similar taxa at middle or low latitudes (Fabry and others, 2009). Because of their prolonged lifetimes, fewer generations will have opportunities for successful acclimation or adaptation to seawater that will become progressively elevated in dissolved CO2. Although many physiological processes in diverse organisms may be affected by rising ocean acidity, it has been suggested that the declining carbonate mineral saturation states of aragonite and calcite in surface waters, and establishment of corrosive conditions in some regions may impact high-latitude planktonic and benthic calcifiers (Comeau and others, 2009; Fabry and others, 2009). Because of these factors, marine food supplies could be reduced with significant implications for food production and security for indigenous populations that are dependent on fish protein.

Healy 2011 Cruise

From August 15 to September 28, 2011, the United States Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy was part of an Extended Continental Shelf Project to determine the limits of the extended continental shelf in the Arctic. On a non-interference basis, a USGS ocean acidification team participated on the cruise to collect baseline water data in the Arctic. The collection of data extended from coastal waters near Barrow, Alaska, to 88 27.46'N. 159 22.05'E., and southward, just west of the Canadian archipelago back to coastal waters near Barrow and on to Dutch Harbor, Alaska. As a consequence, a number of hypotheses were tested and questions asked associated with ocean acidification, including:

During the cruise, underway continuous and discrete water samples were collected to document the carbonate chemistry of the Arctic waters and quantify the saturation state of seawater with respect to calcium carbonate. These data are critical for testing existing models for which few baseline data are available for validation of model results.

Overview of Data Collected

Collaborating with the University of South Florida (USF), the USGS used a state of the art flow-through Multiparameter Inorganic Carbon Analyzer (MICA) (Wang and others, 2007). The MICA collected continuous measurements every 7 minutes (min) of pCO2, pH, and total carbon (TCO2) in seawater. In addition, discrete samples were collected approximately every 2 hours (h) for on-board measurement of pH. Every 4 h and during Niskin casts, samples that were collected for analyses to be performed land-side included water for total alkalinity (TA) and TCO2, nutrients, oxygen and carbon isotopes, metals/major ions, dissolved organic carbon, and particulate inorganic carbon. Further, microbial community and micro-organismal water samples were collected at discrete depths from Niskin casts. The land-side analyses are not reported here. During the cruise, instrumentation on the USCGC Healy continuously recorded temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, CDOM, pCO2, and fluorescence of surface water, and also during vertical casts of a Niskin Rosette.

Suggested Citation

Robbins, L.L., Yates, K.K., Knorr, P.O., Wynn, Jonathan, Lisle, John, Buczkowski, Brian, Moore, Barbara, Mayer, Larry, Armstrong, Andrew, Byrne, R.H., and Liu, Xuewu, 2013, USGS Arctic Ocean carbon cruise 2011 (ver. 1.1, April 2014): Field activity H-01-11-AR to collect carbon data in the Arctic Ocean, August - September 2011: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 748, 1 CD. (Also available at

References Cited

Bates, N.R., Moran, S.B., Hansell, D.A., and Mathis, J.T., 2006, An increasing CO2 sink in the Arctic Ocean due to sea-ice loss: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 33, 7 p.

Byrne, R.H., and Yao, W.S., 2008, Procedures for measurement of carbonate ion concentrations in seawater by direct spectrophotometric observations of Pb(II) complexation: Marine Chemistry, v. 112, no. 1-2, p. 128-135.

Caldeira, Ken, and Wickett, M.E., 2003, Anthropogenic carbon and ocean: Nature, v. 425, no. 6956, p. 365, available at

Chayes, Dale, Roberts, Steve, and Bolmer, Tom, 2010, HLY 1002 data description summary: University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS) Office, 74 p., available at [Report is also included.]

Comeau, S., Gorsky, G., Jeffree, R., Teyssie, J.-L., and Gattuso, J.-P., 2009, Impact of ocean acidification on a key Arctic pelagic mollusc (Limacina helicina): Biogeosciences, v. 6, no. 9, p. 1877-1882.

Dickson, A.G., 1990, Standard potential of the reaction AgCl(s) + .5H2(g) = Ag(s) + HCl(aq) and the standard acidity constant of the ion HSO4- in synthetic sea water from 273.15 to 318.15 K: The Journal of Chemical Thermodynamics, v. 22, no. 2, p. 113-127.

Dickson, A.G., Sabine, C.L., and Christian, J.R., eds., 2007, Guide to best practices for ocean CO2 measurements: PICES Special Publication 3, 191 p.

Epstein, S., and Mayeda, T.K., 1953, Variations of the 18O/16O ratio in natural waters: Geochemica Cosmochimica Acta, v. 4, p. 213.

Fabry, V.J., McClintock, J.B., Mathis, J.T., and Grebmeier, J.M., 2009, Ocean acidification at high latitudes: The bellwether: Oceanography, v. 22, no. 4, p. 160-171.

Ho, D.T., Law, C.S., Smith, M.J., Schlosser, Peter, Harvey, Mike, and Hill, Peter, 2006, Measurements of air-sea gas exchange at high wind speeds in the Southern Ocean: Implications for global parameterizations: Geophysical Research Letters, v. 33, 6 p.

Liu, Xuewu, Patsavas, M.C., and Byrne, R.H., 2011, Purification and characterization of meta-cresol purple for spectrophotometric seawater pH measurements: Environmental Science and Technology, v. 45, p. 4862–4868.

Lueker, T.J., Dickson, A.G., and Keeling, C.D., 2000, Ocean pCO2 calculated from dissolved inorganic carbon, alkalinity, and equations from K1 and K2 - Validation based on laboratory measurements of CO2 in gas and seawater at equilibrium: Marine Chemistry, v. 70, p. 105-119.

Olafsson, J., Olafsdottir, S.R., Benoit-Cattin, A., Danielsen, M., Arnarson, T.S., and Takahashi, T., 2009, Rate of Iceland Sea acidification from time series measurements: Biogeosciences, v. 6, no. 11, p. 2661-2668.

Orr, J.C., and others, 2005, Anthropogenic ocean acidification over the twenty-first century and its impact on calcifying organisms: Nature, v. 437, no. 7059, p. 681–686, available at

Prosser, S.J., and Scrimgeour, C.M., 1995, High-precision determination of 2H/1H in H2 and H2O by continuous-flow isotope ratio mass spectrometry: Analytical Chemistry, v. 67, p. 1992-1997.

Raven, J.A., and others, 2005, Ocean acidification due to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide: London, UK, The Royal Society, available at

Robbins, L.L., Yates, K., Feely, R., and Fabry, V., 2010, Monitoring and assessment of ocean acidification in the Arctic Ocean: Scoping paper for Arctic Mapping and Assessment Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2010-1227, 9 p. available at

Ruttiman, J., 2006, Sick Seas: Nature, v. 442, no. 7106), p. 978–980, available at

Sabine, C.L., Feely, R.A., Gruber, N., and others, 2004, The oceanic sink for anthropogenic CO2: Science, v. 305, no. 5682, p. 367-371.

Steinacher, Marco, Joos, Fortunat, and Frölicher, T.L., 2009a, Box 5. Modeling ocean acidification in the Arctic Ocean, in Gattuso, J.-P., Hansson, Lina, and the EPOCA Consortium, European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA)- Objectives, products, and scientific highlights: Oceanography, v. 22, no. 4, p. 198-199.

Steinacher, M., Joos, F., Frölicher, T.L., Plattner, G.-K., and Doney, S.C., 2009b, Imminent ocean acidification in the Arctic projected with the NCAR global coupled carbon cycle-climate model: Biogeosciences, v. 6, no. 4, p. 515-533.

Wang, A.W., Liu, X., Byrne, R.H., Wanninkhof, R., Bernstein, R.E., Kaltenbacher, E.A., and Patten, J., 2007, Simultaneous spectrophotometric flow-through measurements of pH, carbon dioxide fugacity, and total inorganic carbon in seawater: Analytica Chimica Acta, v. 596, no. 1, p. 23-26.

Yamamoto-Kawai, Michiyo., McLaughlin, F.A., Carmack, E.C., Nishino, Shigeto, and Shimada, Koji, 2009, Aragonite undersaturation in the Arctic Ocean : Effects of ocean acidification and sea ice melt: Science, v. 326, no. 1098, p. 1098-1100.

Yao, Wenshang, and Byrne, R.H., 1998, Simplified seawater alkalinity analysis: Use of linear array spectrometers: Deep Sea Research I, v. 45, p. 1383-1392, doi:10.1016/S0967-0637(98)00018-1.


Home | Acronyms | Contents | Methods | Data | Metadata | Maps | Index

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: GS Pubs Web Contact
Page Last Modified: Monday, 28-Nov-2016 19:13:34 EST