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Executive Summary

Photo 1-1. Polynya (MODIS)
Photo 1-1. Polynya (MODIS)

The Arctic maritime region is comprised of the Arctic Ocean, six marginal seas, and six deep water basins. The Arctic Ocean is a beta ocean, i.e. it is dominated by a strong halocline which acts to retard mixing and vertical flux of biotic and abiotic materials. The main influx of water is derived from the Atlantic Ocean; waters entering via the Chukchi Sea are minor in comparison due to the shallow sill depths in the areas of the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea. Most oil and gas production, major shipping routes, and population centers are located near the continental shelf regions, often coincident with the specialized environments of polynyas (free waters within ice) and freshwater discharge from several major river systems. Continental runoff is a major source of freshwater, terrigenous materials and nutrient loads to the Arctic seas. The Arctic Ocean surface layer (ASL) is generally insulated from the warmer and higher salinity bottom water (Atlantic water layer; AWL) by a well-developed halocline (cold halocline layer, CHL). The halocline is a strong barrier to upward mixing by turbulence, and consequently most of the ocean heat flux in the central basins of the Arctic is generated by solar heating through open leads and thin ice during the summer months. Sea ice nomenclature describes age (thickness as it ages), forms (e.g. pancake or brash ice, floes, icebergs), and concentration (i.e. relative ice/sea coverage) [Tables 1-1 and 1-2]. Average multiyear sea ice distribution and thickness changes over time; estimates of ice cover for February/March 2004 - 2008 and February/March 2012 are compared in Figure 1-1. Ice provides habitat for ice algal communities and enhances food resources, whereas solid ice fields may sufficiently retard solar irradiance to reduce primary production. The processes of ice production, salt flux, and heat transfer from leads and polynyas are important contributors to biological productivity and the larger scale climate events in the Arctic, in addition to the overarching seasonal changes in degree of solar radiation. Biological productivity hinges upon solar irradiance and nutrient availability; the availability of these two resources are regulated by the albedo of ice and snow surfaces and the salinity stratification of the Arctic waters.

Table 1-1. Sea ice Formation (Environment Canada 2005)


New Ice

Frazil Ice

Grease Ice


< 10 cm

Fine spicules or plates of ice

Ice crystals have coagulated

Snow, saturated and mixed with water

Nilas, Ice rind

< 10 cm

Young Ice

Grey Ice

Grey-white ice

10 - 30 cm

10 - 15 cm

15 - 30 cm

First-year ice

Thin first-year ice

Thick first-year ice

≥ 30 cm

30 - 70 cm

> 120 cm

Old Ice

Second-year Ice

Multi-year Ice


Variable to 5 m

The changing physical environment in the Arctic consists of extremes in temperature, amount of light, and weather conditions that act upon the pelagic open waters and convergence zones (shorelines, sea surface layers, ice water interfaces, sediment water interfaces, and water convergences). Convergence zones form an environmental compartment (EC) of the Arctic where valuable ecosystem components (VECs) congregate (see Section 2) providing opportunities for alternate exposure pathways and responses resulting from different modes of toxic action (See Section 6). The physical environment also influences the fate of oil (see Sections 3 and 5) and provides opportunities for alternative oil spill response (OSR) actions (see Section 4). The physical environment needs to be well understood because it sets the stage for minimizing short and long term consequences of applying alternative OSR options (see Sections 7-9). For these reasons determining the location of more stable convergence zones (shorelines and sediment water interface environments) and understanding the variations in the location of more mobile convergence zones (ice water interfaces and current convergence zones) are key components in the selection of OSR options to reduce the consequences of an oil spill.

Some description
Figure 1-1. Changing distribution of ice cover (NSID) (Colors indicate ice thickness in meters; blue = 1m, red=5 m)

Table 1-2. Relative ice concentrations [Adapted from Environment Canada 2005] 

Some description

<1/10 Open water

Some description

8/10 Close pack/drift ice

Some description

3/10 Very open drift ice

Some description

9+/10 Very close pack

Some description

6/10 Open drift ice

Some description

Compact/Consolidated Ice

1.1 Introduction

In contrast to Antarctica, the physical environment in the Arctic is a consequence of recent glaciation and the relatively short time span for ecosystem and faunal diversification.  Polar ecosystems are characterized by extreme environmental conditions induced by cold temperatures, extensive snow and ice cover with abbreviated periods of solar radiation and primary productivity.  In general the productivity in Arctic freshwater and marine systems is concentrated over short periods of time centered around ice breakup when nutrients become available and light becomes more prevalent and water temperatures warm as the ice cover is reduced.  These environmental constraints concentrate recolonization during a few months of the year resulting in low species diversity due to extremely fast population growth of key zooplankton species responding to the release of nutrients which then contribute food to slower growing and longer-lived species. The objective of this chapter is to present an overview of the physical environment of the Arctic and indicate important characteristics that determine presence of Arctic ecosystem components.

1.1.1 The Arctic Ocean, Marginal Seas, and Basins

The Arctic Ocean and associated waters comprise one of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world.  Two sources of productivity are instrumental in actively replenishing nutrients over short time periods:  ice algae, and riverine input.  It has been estimated that ice algae contributes 10-70% of annual productivity (AMAP 1998).  River discharges to the Arctic shelf regions augment nutrients, organic materials, and sedimentation on a seasonal basis.  The marginal seas are either influenced by the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans (Nordic, Barents, Northern Labrador Sea and Bering, Chukchi Seas, respectively), or are relatively isolated and border the Asian or North American continents (Kara, Laprev, East Siberian, and Beaufort, respectively).  The Chukchi, Bering and Barents Seas are among the most seasonally productive ecosystems.  The seas bordering the continental landmasses are influenced by freshwater runoff from the river systems and prior to the onset of recent increased warming trends had landfast ice associated with the shorelines for most of the year.  Freshwater discharge from rivers leads to earlier open water in the nearshore zone.  Maximum productivity is limited to open coastal waters during spring/summer months or to polynyas between landfast ice and the polar pack ice (occurring near the continental shelf edges).  Organic material not cycled through organisms or advected to the central Arctic basin is incorporated into sediments, producing localized areas of high organic enrichment near the mouths of major rivers and to locally deposited sections of tundra breaking off from shore locations.  Nearshore river systems are characterized by estuarine conditions, i.e. higher water temperatures, lower salinity, increased turbidity, as well as increased productivity due to the organic enrichment.  In most other areas the benthic standing crop decreases with increasing depth; ridges such as the Lomonosov Ridge have higher benthic standing crops than adjacent basins (Kröncke 1994; Kröncke et al. 1994).  The age of the organisms creating these standing crops on ridge environments may be quite old and reflect development over many decades but this has been a difficult environment to investigate so little is well known.

The two main deep basins, the Eurasian and the Canadian are separated by the transpolar Lomonosov Ridge (Figures 1-2 and 1-3).  The Canadian Basin which is < 3500 m in depth is transected by the Alpha Cordillera ridge into the Makarov and Canada Basins.  The Eurasian Basin is deeper, reaching depths of 4000m, and is divided by the Nansen Cordillera into Amundsen and Nansen basins.  While the continental shelf generally extends 50 to 100 km offshore, the shelf is broad north of Siberia, extending up to 900 km offshore. 

Figure 1-2. Basins and ridges of the Arctic Basin (Mike Norton)
Figure 1-2.   Basins and ridges of the Arctic Basin  (Mike Norton)

Figure 1-3. Main water bodies of the Arctic (Source:  AMAP 1998)
Figure 1-3.  Main water bodies of the Arctic (Source: AMAP 1998)

1.2 Knowledge Status

1.2.1 The Circumpolar Margins

Most oil and gas development activities, shipping routes, as well as major fishing grounds occur along the margins of the Arctic Ocean at the interface of land and sea edges.  Figure 1-4 highlights the main shipping routes transiting Arctic waters and areas of active oil and gas exploration.  Increased periods of ice-free conditions along shipping routes will result in increased vessel and fishing activities.   It should be noted that increased commercial fishery pressure itself may lead to changes in fishery stocks and biodiversity in the Arctic.

Continental runoff is a major source of freshwater, terrigenous materials and nutrient loads to the Arctic Ocean.  Information gathered from the Regional Arctic Hydrographic Network data set (R-ArcticNET) indicates that the overall annual discharge is ~3,300 km3 y-1.  This buoyant freshwater contributes to a low saline layer (upper 200 m) of the Arctic Ocean which is isolated from the warmer, saltier Atlantic layer by a strong halocline (Fichot et al. 2013).  Rivers account for 2% of the influx of water to the Arctic region resulting in highly productive areas, particularly during the peak flow occurring from April to July (~60%).  The rivers in Siberia (Ob, Yenisey, Lena, and Kolyma) and in North America (Yukon, and Mackenzie) provide the majority of continental fresh water to the Arctic Ocean.  The Arctic Great Rivers Observatory (Arctic-GRO) monitors the discharge of these six river systems.

River systems generally increase productivity due to the availability of increased organic nutrients in the areas of riverine discharges.  Figure 1-5 shows the locations of the major rivers in the Arctic.   The regions along the continental shelf may be the most likely to encounter oil spill incidents, either due to oil and gas production activities or vessel mishaps. In determining environmental impacts of released oil, areas of special importance are the interfaces where oil components may re-concentrate (e.g. current convergence zones, pycnoclines, upwelling or downwelling of water masses, shoreline stranding or concentration at air-water, ice-water, or sediment-water interfaces).

Some description
Figure 1-4. Circumpolar regions of activities (AMAP)

Figure 1-5. Major river systems in the Arctic
Figure 1-5. Major river systems in the Arctic

1.2.2 Arctic Hydrography

Ocean temperatures vary widely depending on latitude and proximity to warm Atlantic or Pacific Ocean waters.  For the Arctic Ocean, temperature variation between winter and summer is small (remains close to freezing year round) and salinities vary between 30 and 33.  In the coastal shelf areas, surface water temperatures range from -1 °C to 4-5 °C, winter to summer, respectively while salinities may be <30, especially in areas receiving freshwater from rivers and ice melt.  In areas where oceanic mixing occurs, the temperature remains higher than 0 °C throughout the year.  In the Kara Sea and Siberian shelf, salinity is <20 throughout the year, and may drop to 10 during the summer (Figure 1-5; AMAP 1998).  Arctic seas are primarily ‘beta oceans’, i.e. a salinity profile is the most important permanent stratification feature (Carmack and Wassmann 2006).

Figure 1-6. Temperature, salinity, and density profiles (AMAP 1998)
Figure 1-6. Temperature, salinity, and density profiles (AMAP 1998)

Warm ocean currents flow northward from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and cold Arctic countercurrents flow southward (Figure 1-6).  Arctic Ocean water mainly flows from the Atlantic Ocean (79%), while inflow from the Bering Strait accounts for only 19%.  Concern with thinning of Arctic ice cover over recent decades has generated numerous investigations of the ocean-ice heat flux and changes in the Arctic Ocean surface layer (ASL).  The ASL is generally insulated from the warmer and higher salinity bottom water (Atlantic water layer; AWL) by a well-developed halocline (cold halocline layer, CHL).  The halocline establishes as a strong barrier to upward mixing by turbulence, and consequently most of the ocean heat flux in the central basins of the Arctic is generated by solar heating through open leads and thin ice during the summer months.

Figure 1-7. Arctic currents (AMAP 1998)
Figure 1-7. Arctic currents (AMAP 1998)

Researchers have found that although changes in surface velocity and surface stress in the open ocean reflects large scale atmospheric pressure fields (the Arctic oscillation, AO), the properties of sea-ice concentrate energy into relatively narrow zones of intense shear which can raise the pycnocline.  Such events may greatly enhance ocean-to-ice heat transfer (McPhee et al. 2005).  Examination of hydrographic records indicated that the CHL dissipated during a low pressure system from 1988 to 1997 in the Nansen and Amundsen Basins, resulting in an increased rate of melting sea-ice (15-25 cm/y).  The lateral Ekman currents moved in a counter-clockwise direction, resulting in upwelling of warmer, saltier water from the AWL and raising a weakened halocline layer about 50 m.  Average seasonal changes in sea-ice conditions (concentration and movement), sea level pressure, Ekman transport vectors, and upwelling patterns are presented in Figure 1-7 (Yang 2008).  

Figure 1-8. Seasonal sea-ice and ocean movement averaged over a 28 year period (Yang 2008)
Figure 1-8. Seasonal sea-ice and ocean movement averaged over a 28 year period (Yang 2008)

Closer to shore, the seasonal cycle of Ekman transport is highly influenced by high sea level pressure in fall and winter.  For example, strong offshore transport along the Beaufort, Chukchi and East Siberian coasts intensifies coastal upwelling and downwelling in the interior Canadian Basin.  The offshore transport also pushes low-salinity warm shelf water toward the deeper basins, reducing salinity and increasing temperature.  

The continental shelf zones comprise about 50% of the Arctic Ocean surface and there are marked regional differences.  Narrow shelves are characteristic of the North American continent, and wide shelves with very steep slopes are typical of Eurasian continents (Table 1-1). Carmack and Wassmann (2006) group shelf areas according to function:  1) Inflow shelves (Bering Strait/Chukchi Sea, Barents Sea); 2) 2) Interior shelves (Beaufort and Kara/Laptev/East Siberian Seas); and 3) Outflow shelves (Canadian Archipelago and East-Greenland shelf).   The pan-Arctic shelves are estuarine in nature in that waters originating from the Atlantic and/or the Pacific Oceans mix with inflowing river waters.  Although there are regional differences in source water characteristics, all shelf areas are generally associated with the nutrient enrichment, productivity, and biodiversity.  Figure 1-8 is an excellent illustration of the dynamic physical, chemical, and biological interactions occurring in the Arctic shelf regions in the vicinity of receiving waters of major river systems.  In general, the nearshore ecosystems are characterized by relatively few trophic links and low biodiversity, and would be more sensitive to increased climatic warming than temperate regions (Carmack and Wassmann 2006).

Arctic SeaFunctionMean depth (m)Area  (103 km2)% Total shelf area

Barents Sea





Kara Sea





Laptev Sea





East Siberian Sea





Chukchi Sea





Beaufort Sea





Canadian Arctic Archipelago (CAA)





Northern CAA










Table 1-3. Characteristics of Arctic shelves (after Carmack and Wassmann 2006)

Figure 1-9. Dynamic shelf processes augmented by nutrient loading from riverine discharge (Source: AMAP 1998)
Figure 1-9. Dynamic shelf processes augmented by nutrient loading from riverine discharge (Source: AMAP 1998)

1.2.3 Ice And Ice-Edges

Sea ice forms when the temperature of the ocean falls below the freezing point, effectively converting the seawater to ice (-1.8 °C at 33 ‰ salinity).  Ice is characterized by where it is located:  landfast ice lines the shoreline and first year ice is intermediate between the multi-year ice and open water.  The annual changes in pack ice are determined by temperature, winds, and ocean currents (such as the Alaska, Labrador, East Greenland currents and the warm West Spitsbergen and North Cape currents).  Multi-year ice averages 2.5 to 4 m in thickness and may be intersected by leads such as shown in the photo above (~1% open in winter to 10-20% open in summer; Gow and Tucker 1990).  The two main ice circulation systems in the Arctic are the clockwise Beaufort Gyre in the Amerasian Arctic and the Transpolar Drift in the Eurasian Arctic (migrating east to west, exiting via the Fram Strait).  The North Cap current keeps the southern Barents Sea ice-free during the winter.

Photo 1-2. Ice lead (Lionel Camus)
Photo 1-2. Ice lead (Lionel Camus)

Photo 1-3.  Polynya
Photo 1-3.  Polynya

Ice leads and open-water lenses (polynyas) form in nearshore or ocean areas and are characterized by cold, highly saline water (Photos 1-2 and 1-3).  The processes of ice production, salt flux, and heat transfer from leads and polynyas are important contributors to the larger scale climate events in the Arctic.  Polynyas occur for the most part during winter and harsh weather conditions and may be formed by two processes: 1) Mechanically forced (wind-driven; strong winds force ice cover away from the coast; 2) Convectively forced (ice subsidence; subsurface heat is transferred to the surface water by the upwelling of warmer, deeper water); refer to Figure 1-10.   Improved satellite technologies (e.g. synthetic aperture radar, SAR) and mathematical algorithms (e.g. polynya signature simulation method, PSSM) have made it possible to define the size and shape of polynyas as well as differentiate open water, new ice, and young ice (Dokken et al. 2002).  The heat exchange from the ocean to the atmosphere can be orders of magnitude larger in polynyas compared to the surrounding ice pack, and polynyas can contribute ~50% of the seasonal mean of annual ice production in some areas (Winsor and Bork 2000).  Winsor and Bjork (2000) estimated the mean ice production and corresponding salt flux from Arctic polynyas and found that the salt flux represents about 30% of that necessary to maintain the CHL.    The marginal seas contributing the most to the CHL are the Barents, Kara, Chukchi, and Bering; the Chukchi Sea is the only sea contributing actively to deep water formation.  The North Water Polynya is located between Greenland and Canada in northern Baffin Bay.  It is 85,000 sq. km in area and creates a warm microclimate that is one of the most biologically productive marine areas in the Arctic Ocean.  Polynyas are of critical importance to significant populations of marine birds, mammals, and fish.

Some description
Figure 1-10. Polynyas and Sensible-Heat Exchange [Based on image modified from Ocean Circulation, 2nd Edition by Open University, Butterworth-Heinemann Publishers, page 219; Source: National Sea Ice Data Center (NSIDC)]

The term seasonal ice zone (SIZ) describes the presence of transitional ice (i.e. freezes and melts annually) whereas marginal ice zone (MIZ) is used to describe the areas where open water meets ice cover during any season.  About half of the Arctic sea-ice freezes and melts annually.  During summer months, narrow MIZ and wide SIZ bands circumscribe the polar region.  It is along this band of expanding and shrinking open water linkages that most of the Arctic Ocean productivity takes place and where climatic changes would be most evident (Carmack and Wassmann 2006).  In recent years, the ice-free season in the Arctic increased at a steady rate of 1.1 days/year.  A record low in sea ice was recorded in 2007, with 168 ice-free days (Rodrigues 2009).  Increasing seasonal open water periods is coincident with anticipated increases in shipping traffic via the polar routes (Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route).

1.2.4 Seasonality: Productivity and the Carbon Cycle in the Arctic

Biological productivity hinges upon solar irradiance and nutrient availability.  These two resources are regulated by salinity stratification of the Arctic waters.  In general stratification is expressed as buoyancy frequency relating vertical temperature and salinity gradients with consideration of gravity, thermal expansion, and haline contraction coefficients (Carmack and Wassmann 2006).

The annual productivity/carbon cycle in the Arctic is illustrated in Figure 1-10.  The sun appears over the horizon in April, supplying light to support the growth of ice algae and phytoplankton. Production peaks in June when the sun is at its highest; zooplankton thrive on this superabundance of food. The production gradually declines during the season as the phytoplankton use up the nutrients in the water and as the sun sinks below the horizon, the plankton hibernate until the next growing season ( For areas in the Canadian high Arctic, Welch et al. (1992) estimated the relative importance of contributors to primary productivity as: phytoplankton (90%) > ice algae (10%) > benthic algae (1%).  This relationship likely varies in different locations.

Figure 1-11. Productivity/carbon cycle in the Arctic [Original illustration: Alexander Keck & Paul Wassmann (1993), modified by Frøydis Strand, NFH, University of Tromso; with adaptation from Forest et al. 2013)]
Figure 1-11. Productivity/carbon cycle in the Arctic [Original illustration: Alexander Keck & Paul Wassmann (1993), modified by Frøydis Strand, NFH, University of Tromso; with adaptation from Forest et al. 2013)]

Physical processes inherent in ice field characteristics, water column stratification, vertical mixing, light and nutrients in combination with phytoplankton determine the balance of productivity and biomass build-up in the euphotic zone and its transfer to the aphotic zone.  The fate of suspended and sinking biogenic matter is based on the magnitude of export production and biological activities such as grazing in the upper water column.  The transfer of carbon from the surface layer to the deep ocean is accomplished via the passive sinking (exported) or the active transport of organic material (harvested, fecal production).   The greatest congregation of zooplankton often occurs just below the euphotic zone (Olli et al. 2006); excess detrital matter ultimately sinks into the aphotic zone.  In some regions such as the Barents Sea, the pelagic food web is positively correlated with benthic standing stocks (Carmack and Wassmann 2008).   There is considerable variability in sediment community structures and biomass, depending on carbon development in the upper layers.   Ice cover and other physical factors have been observed to limit primary production and benthic biomass (Grebmeier et al. 1995). 

The highly seasonal attributes of the Arctic influence species abundance and distribution patterns.  The lack of sunlight during the Arctic winter in combination with ice-covered waters limits primary and secondary production when solar irradiance is unavailable.  The periods of low production are punctuated by extremely high production during breakup and seasonal open water.  The combination of open water, long days, and high nutrient concentrations during break up and early summer creates intense periods of primary production, grazing by primary consumers, and predation by the higher trophic levels.  Whereas the aquatic communities are limited during the winter, the diversity and abundance of species increases dramatically in the summer. Key Arctic species have adapted their life cycles to take advantage of this period of high production, and larval or juvenile life stages are adapted to capitalize on the short period of enriched food resources.

The initiation and duration of summer production follows a latitudinal gradient from the southern Barents Sea in March – April to August – September in the Fram Strait and Arctic Ocean (Figure 2-5; Falk-Peterson et al. 2007) with substantially shorter periods of high production in the higher latitudes.  This suggests not only a strong temporal component, but a strong regional component. The largest seasonal effects are seen in the surface and nearshore waters, however there are seasonal patterns in the deeper waters as well, with Arctic cod (adults, YOY and larval cod) and copepods moving to deeper waters during the winter months. 

Seasonal migrations and changes in abundance, particularly of the younger life stages are an important consideration for environmental consequence analysis (ECA) and the relative vulnerability of different VECs.  Based on information provided in this review, there are some general pan-Arctic patterns of seasonal sensitivity.  However, for the purposes of assessing the spill response options, a regional approach is recommended.  Surface waters along ice-edges and in leads, particularly during the breakup and early ice-free period are important concentration points for copepods and juvenile cod, as well as migratory birds and mammals.  During the ice-free period, the ice edge continues to be an important feeding ground for large marine mammals as well as ice-seal pups.  Nearshore waters, are also a concentration point for water column resources, particularly juvenile forms and migratory species (e.g. toothed whales, sea birds).  As in more temperate waters, estuarine lagoons and rocky intertidal habitat during the ice-free season are important nursery grounds and act as a convergence point for aquatic, avian, and terrestrial species (Dunton et al. 2006).  During the open water season, nearshore waters and shallow shelf waters are also important feeding and breeding grounds for walrus.  Portions of the nearshore and shallow shelf are staging and feeding grounds for nesting sea birds and their chicks (Robertson 2013).  The midwater pelagic region is a concentration point for shoals of arctic cod and feeding migratory whales.  In the winter months, Arctic cod and Calanoid copepods move to deeper waters.  Leads and polynyas are concentration points for VEC species during the winter, in particular toothed whales.

For further detailed information on Arctic species, communities, and trophic linkages, please refer to Section 2.


1.3 Future Research Considerations

The review of the physical environment described by the authors in this section led to suggestions of further research which can reduce remaining uncertainties; these recommendations are summarized below while recommendations that are particularly important for improving Arctic NEBA are listed separately. 

  1. Seasonal and interannual fluctuations. The prevailing environmental characteristics such as extreme cold temperatures, variable solar irradiation and ice coverage affect the marine ecosystem and its populations. Seasonal productivity ties in with the degree of solar irradiation and ice coverage and directly affects species population recruitment and migration patterns.
    1. A better understanding of ice, and the corresponding variance of faunal distributions and life-history patterns on a spatial (regionally and throughout the pan-artic region) and temporal (annual and interannual) scale would be especially useful to protecting areas of densely populated VECs. 
  2. Interface habitats. The physical structure of the Arctic provides additional interface as well as open water environments that are occupied by VECs.
    1. Interface environments that are stable (e.g. shorelines, sediment/water interface, edges of multi-year ice, convergence of water masses near subsurface topographic features) have generally been mapped throughout most of the Arctic. Where they have not been mapped they need to be. Seasonal use patterns by VECs need to be summarized by these interface ECs (see Section 2). 
    2. Interface environments that are variable (annual ice edges including polynyas and under-ice brine channels, fresh water releases and their transport, barrier island beaches/shorelines should be characterized by indicating most likely locations in the Arctic for these less permanent features. Understanding of patterns of use by VECs will be strengthened under work proposed in Section 2. 
  3. Alterations in chemical processes. We need to better understand how cold temperatures and extreme weather interacts with broken and more permanent ice to affect the chemical processes associated with the fate of oil compounds and natural biodegradation rates (Sections 3 and 5). 

1.3.1 Priority Recommendations to Enhance NEBA Applications in the Arctic

The recommendations presented below indicate where increased knowledge of physical environment would result in reducing existing uncertainties in NEBA assessments. No prioritization has been made to the list; for some of the recommendations, surrogate data may be already available. 

  1. Arctic ecosystem consequence analyses need to include impact assessments of open pelagic waters as well as shorelines, river discharges, sediment/water interfaces, ice/water interfaces, convergence zones and surface layers near the air/water interface. These ECs may receive concentrated oil exposure depending on the type of OSR actions employed, and should receive further study.
    1. The location of primary ECs used by VECs could be added to regional sensitivity maps already available. 
    2. The locations where less permanent ECs can be prevalent are also important to VEC distribution and need to be located generally so that site specific assessments of their presence can be added to environmental sensitivity maps for reference during response actions. The environmental features that control the locations of these less permanent features and means to determine their presence during a response action are an area of additional study.

1.4 Further Information

Authors Jack Q. Word and Lucinda S. Word (ENVIRON) 


Blenkinsopp SA, G Sergy, K Doe, G Wohlgeschaffen, K Li, M Fingas


Toxicity of weathered crude oil used at the Newfoundland offshore burn experiment (NOBE) and the resultant burn residue

Spill Sci Tech Bull 3(4):277-380

Buist I, S Potter, SE Sorstrom


Barents Sea Field Test of Herder to Thicken Oil for In situ Burning in Drift Ice 

Proceedings, 33rd AMOP Technical Seminar, Halifax NS

Buist I, S Potter, T Nedwed, J Mullin


Herding surfactants to contract and thicken oil spills in pack ice for in situ burning

Cold Regions Sci Tech 67(1-2):3-23

Carmack E, P Wassmann


Food webs and physical-biological coupling on pan-Arctic shelves: unifying concepts and comprehensive perspectives.

Prog Oceanogr 71:446-477

Dokken ST, P Winsor, T Markus, J Askne, G Bjork


ERS SAR characterization of coastal polynyas in the Arctic and comparison with SSM/I and numerical model investigations

Remote Sensing of Environ 80:321-335

Dunton KH, T Weingartner, EC Carmack


The nearshore western Beaufort Sea ecosystem: Circulation and importance of terrestrial carbon in arctic coastal

Prog Oceanogr 71:362-378.

Environment Canada


MANICE:Manual of Standard Procedures for Observing and Report Ice Conditions

Environment Canada, Canadian Ice Service, Ottawa, Ontario CAN

Fichot CG, K Kaiser, SB Hooker, RMW Amon, M Babin, S Belanger, SA Walker, R Benner


Pan-Arctic distributions of continental runoff in the Arctic Ocean

Nature Scientific Reports No.1053. pp. 1-6

Fingas M


An overview of in-situ burning

Oil Spill Science and Technology. Chapter 23. Elsevier Inc.

Forest A, C Lalande, J Hwang, M Sampei, J Berge


Bio-mooring arrays and long-term sediment traps: key tools to detect change in the biogeochemical and ecological functioning of Arctic marine ecosystems

Presentation to Arctic Observing Summit, 2013; Laval University et al. pp. 1-20.

Fritt-Rasmussen J, PJ Brandvik A Villumsen, EH Stenby


Comparing ignitability for in situ burning of oil spills for an asphaltenic, a waxy and a light crude oil as a function of weathering conditions under arctic conditions

Cold Regions Sci Tech 72:1-6

Gow AJ and WB Tucker III


Sea ice in the polar regions, p 47-122.

In: Polar oceanography, Part A. WO Smith, Jr (ed.)

Grebmeier JM, WO Grebmeier, RJ Conover


Biological processes on Arctic continental shelves: Ice-ocean-biotic interactions.

In Arctic oceanography: Marginal Ice Zones and Continental Shelves. Smith WO and JM Grebmeier (eds). Am Geophys Union, Was

Guenette CC ad P Sveum


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Spill Sci Tech Bull 2(1):75-77

Jason NH (ed)


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MS, Dept of the Interior. NIST Special publication 867. 101 p

Kroncke I Tan TL, Stein R


High benthic bacteria standing stock in deep Arctic basins

Polar Biology 14:423-428.

Kroncke, I


Macrobenthos composition, abundance and biomass in the Arctic Ocean.

Polar Biology 14(8): 519-529.

Luers J and J Bareiss


The effect of misleading surface temperature estimations on the sensible heat fluxes at a high Arctic site – the Arctic Turbulence Experiment 2006 on Svalbard (ARCTEX-2006).

Atmos Chem Phys 10:157-168.

McPhee MG, R Robins, M Coon


Upwelling of Arctic pycnocline associated with shear motion of sea ice.

Geophys Res Letters 32:L10616; 4 p.

Mullin JV and MA Champ


Introduction/overview to in situ burning of oil spills

Spill Sci Tech Bull 8(4):323-330

Norton M

Arctic Ocean bathymetric features, on-line graphic

Olli K, P Wassmann, M Reigstad, TN Ratkova, E Arashkevich, A Pasternak, P Matrai, J Knulst


Suspended concentration and vertical flux of organic particles in the upper 200 m during a 3 week ice drift at 88°N.

Progr Oceanogr; j.pocean.2006.8.002.

Petrich C, J Karlsson, H Eicken


Porosity of growing sea ice and potential for oil entrainment

Cold Regions Sci Tech 87:27-32

Pistruzak WM


Dome Petroleum's oil spill research and development program for the Arctic

International Oil Spill Conference, IOSC. March 1981. p 173-181

Robertson M


Coastal and marine bird usage of the Beaufort Sea

BREA Results Forum; Inuvik, NWT February 21, 2013

Rodrigues J


The increase in the length of the ice-free season in the Arctic

Cold Regions Sci Tech 59(1):78-101

Scholz D, SR Warren Jr, AH Walker, J Michel


In situ burning: The fate of burned oil

API , American Petroleum Institute; Washington DC. 40 p.

Stirling I


The biological importance of polynyas in the Canadian Arctic.

Arctic 33(2):303-315.

Walsh JJ


DOC storage in Arctic seas: the role of continental shelves.

In Arctic oceanography: Marginal ice zones and continental shelves, Smith WO and JM Grebmeier (eds). Am Geophys Union, Wash

Welch HE, MA Bergmann, TD Siferd, KA Martin, MF Curtis, RE Crawford, RJ Conover, H Hop


Energy flow through the marine ecosystem of the Lancaster Sound Region, Arctic Canada.

Arctic 45:343-357.

Winsor P and G Bjork


Polynya activity in the Arctic Ocean from 1958 to 1997

Jnl Geophys Res 105(C4):8789-8803.

Yang J


Interannual variability of the Arctic ocean Ekman transport and upwelling.

Poster presentation; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Department of Physical Oceanography

Carmack E, Wassman P


Food webs and physical-biological coupling on pan-Arctic shelves: Unifying concepts and comprehensive perspectives

Progress in Oceanography 71:446-447

Falk-Peterson S, Pavlov V, Timofeev S, Sargent JR


Climate variability and possible effects on arctic food chains: The role of Calanus

Arctic Alpine Ecosystems and People in a Changing Environment. Springer, 434pp.



AMAP Assessment report: Arctic Pollution Issues

Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (AMAP), Oslo, Norway. Xii+859pp

Buist I, Dickins D, L Majors, K Linderman, J Mullin, C Owens


Tests to determine the limits to in situ burning of thin oil slicks in brash amd frazil ice

Proceedings, AMOP Technical Seminar No 26, Vol 2, pp. 629-648.

Dickins D


Behavior of oil spills in ice and implications for Arctic spill response

Proceedings, Arctic Technology Conference, Houston Texas, 7-9 February6 2011. 15 p.

SL Ross, DF Dickins, Envision Planning Solutions


Beaufort Sea oil spills state of knowledge | Review and identification of key issues

Environmental Research Studies Funds, Report No. 177

Dickins DF


Advancing oil spill response in ice covered areas

Report submitted to the Prince William Sound Oil Spill Response Institute and US Arctic Research Commission, Cordova Alaska and

Gerdes B, R Brinkmeyer, G Dieckmann, E Helmke


Influence of crude oil on changes of bacterial communities in Arctic sea-ice

FEMS Microbiology Ecology 53:129-139.