Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Research Shows Little Effect From Arctic Offshore Oil Drilling; Study Reveals Thriving Oceanographic System

Date:
October 3, 2003
Source:
Florida Institute Of Technology
Summary:
When the U.S. Dept. of Interior contracted with Florida Tech Oceanographer John Trefry to study the impact of recent offshore oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic, the Florida Academy of Sciences gold medalist had some concerns about what he might discover. Instead of finding significant impacts, however, Trefry and his team of Florida Tech scientists were amazed by the discovery of a remarkable, thriving oceanographic system.

When the U.S. Dept. of Interior contracted with Florida Tech Oceanographer John Trefry to study the impact of recent offshore oil drilling in the Alaskan Arctic, the Florida Academy of Sciences gold medallist had some concerns about what he might discover. Instead of finding significant impacts, however, Trefry and his team of Florida Tech scientists were amazed by the discovery of a remarkable, thriving oceanographic system.

During the past 25 years, corporations have plumbed the depths of the Arctic Alaskan mainland for oil, collecting more than 13 billion barrels in the process. More recently, these companies expanded efforts to include offshore drilling. Trefry and his Florida Tech team, Steven Wood, assistant professor of oceanography, Bob Trocine, senior research associate, Robert Rember, research scientist, and graduate students Michelle McElvaine, Lee Frey, and Debra Woodall were funded by the department's Minerals Management Service to learn if this new drilling was causing negative impacts on the environment. Trefry's research has been extensive.

"We analyzed several species of fish, clams and amphipods," said Trefry. "We also studied the water, ice and mud to check for potential pollution." What Trefry's team and their colleagues from Battelle Ocean Sciences, Kinnetics Laboratories, Applied Marine Sciences and the University of Texas Marine Lab discovered through their analyses was a pleasant surprise. "We found early in the process that impacts to the environment from offshore drilling were minimal," Trefry said. "In fact, the entire offshore area was near pristine. During the past four years we've continued to monitor the area and still have no evidence of significant impacts."

After the first year, Trefry reoriented the program from being solely an impact study to one that would investigate the natural oceanographic system of the Alaskan Arctic. Trefry spent much of the next three springs and summers in the area, studying how the summertime melt on the mainland affected the surrounding ocean.

"Starting in late May of 2001 and 2002 we began intensive daily sampling at three rivers, trying to understand the input of dissolved chemicals and suspended sediments into the ocean," said Trefry. "What we found was that more than 80 percent of the sediment that enters the ocean over the course of the year comes in a single two-week period."

This late May meltdown arrives early enough in the year to meet unusual resistance. The Artic Ocean at that time of year is topped with a six-foot layer of ice. As a result, the freshwater runoff has no way to merge into the saltwater ocean.

"The freshwater runs out over and just under the ice. The ocean water is so cold (30.8 degrees F) that any freshwater that flows underneath the six-foot top layer, is quickly trapped by a second, thinner layer of ice beneath the flow," he said.

The freshwater runoff stretched out at least 10 miles from the mainland without mixing with the ocean waters below. This discovery explained two environmental phenomena.

First, rivers normally introduce large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into the ocean. This introduction leads to plankton blooms. Trefry and his team now had a tangible reason for the late growth of these blooms in the Arctic Ocean. Second, they gained a greater understanding of why the ocean was still in near-pristine condition after years of oil-drilling. Trefry said that they were no longer surprised by their first-year results.

"What we came to realize is that extreme caution by industry, combined with movement of water and sediment offshore, help keep the coastal system clean," he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Florida Institute Of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Florida Institute Of Technology. "Research Shows Little Effect From Arctic Offshore Oil Drilling; Study Reveals Thriving Oceanographic System." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 October 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031002055859.htm>.
Florida Institute Of Technology. (2003, October 3). Research Shows Little Effect From Arctic Offshore Oil Drilling; Study Reveals Thriving Oceanographic System. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031002055859.htm
Florida Institute Of Technology. "Research Shows Little Effect From Arctic Offshore Oil Drilling; Study Reveals Thriving Oceanographic System." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031002055859.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Airlines on Iceland Volcano Alert

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 22, 2014) Iceland evacuates an area north of the country's Bardarbunga volcano, as the country's civil protection agency says it cannot rule out an eruption. Authorities have already warned airlines. As Joel Flynn reports, ash from the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in 2010 shut down much of Europe's airspace for six days. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

Coal Gas Boom in China Holds Climate Risks

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) China's energy revolution could do more harm than good for the environment, despite the country's commitment to reducing pollution and curbing its carbon emissions. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

Microbrewery Chooses Special Can for Its Beer

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) Aluminum giant, Novelis, has partnered with Red Hare Brewing Company to introduce the first certified high-content recycled beverage can. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins