Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study Seeks Collaborators

5 April 2000

The steering committee for the proposed Canadian Arctic Shelf Exchange Study
(CASES) is seeking interested scientists to participate in a research
network that would study the effects of shrinking and thinning of the Arctic
ice pack on climate and marine ecosystems. Those having such interests
should contact Louis Fortier, or any member of
the steering committee listed below.

Call for interest in participation

Dear Colleagues,

Recent evidence suggest that the Arctic is warming at (or faster than) the
rate predicted by Global Circulation Models. In particular, the alarming
shrinking/thinning of the Arctic ice pack, a phenomenon considered the
bellwether of global climate change, is taking place at the predicted pace.

Our experience with the International North Water Polynya Study (NOW) has convinced us (i.e. a sizeable
fraction of the Canadian Arctic marine research community and our foreign
allies) that a Network approach is the only way to answer the
ecosystem-scale questions raised by a reduction of the Arctic ice cover. The
NOW experience has also shown us that changes in the physical environment
have significant ecosystem consequences. At a recent meeting of the NOW
Network in San-Antonio, we were mandated by our Canadian and foreign
collaborators to start the process of forming a new international network to
focus Canadian and foreign university and government expertise onto the
question of impacts from a reduction of the Arctic ice pack on the ecosystem
off the Canadian Arctic coast.

Our objective is to conduct a major international field effort in the
Mackenzie Shelf-Beaufort Sea area to address
(1) the oceanographic-climatic causes of the shrinking/thinning of the
Arctic ice pack in and northward of this region
(2) the impact of ice reduction on the marine ecosystem
(3) modifications of local climate and climate feed-backs and
(4) the export and sequestration of carbon in the deep Arctic basins

Although building on the knowledge, expertise in logistics, and extensive
network of collaborations developed during NOW, this new program would not
be a continuation or renewal of NOW. It is a new project addressing issues
that go well beyond the study of a polynya. We propose to characterise the
physical, biological and biogeochemical rate processes from the Mackenzie
delta out as far as possible into the ice pack in the direction of the pole.
This Canadian-led international effort will build on earlier studies in the
Canadian Beaufort Sea and complement the US-led SBI program (Shelf-Basin
Interaction) in the Chukchi/Beaufort Seas to the west, and the recently
renewed GEWEX programme on the watershed of the Mackenzie River. This
region, where freshwater fluxes from a major terrestrial watershed play a
significant role in the accretion and ablation of sea ice, has recently
undergone significant change in ice and ocean climate. The proposed study
would be crucial to understand the causes and consequences of warming and
ice thinning in the western Canadian Arctic.

As with the North Water (NOW) project, this effort would be conducted in
partnership with the Departments of Fisheries & Oceans and Environment
Canada, and with teams in several countries. At this time, we have pledges
for participation from established scientists in several Canadian
universities, DFO, the USA and Japan, and are discussing collaboration with
colleagues in other countries. In anticipation of this new endeavour, we
have requested funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation to
improve our capacity to mobilise Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) ice breakers for
science. As the charter of ice-breakers involves major costs, we are
initiating discussions with our main foreign partners to develop joint

The principal milestones we envisage at this time are:
(1) This world-wide call for interest in participating in the new Network.
(2) Based on the input from 1): define the composition of the new network,
complete the scope of the program and write a Letter of Intent (LOI)
to NSERC (the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of
Canada) for June 1.
(3) Depending on the response to the LOI, organise a
national/international workshop in Montreal in mid July 2000 to
finalise details of the program and a first draft of the full proposal
for submission on 1 October.

If you would like to participate in this new Research Network and believe
you can contribute research essential to its objectives (see above), please
contact Louis Fortier ( or 418-656-5646) or any
member of the Steering Committee (below), to discuss an eventual

Louis Fortier, Universite Laval,
David Barber, University of Manitoba,
Eddie Carmack, Institute of Ocean Sciences,
Jody Deming, University of Washington,
Mark Johnson, University of Alaska,
Mitsuo Fukuchi, National Institute for Polar Research,
Louis Legendre, Universite Laval,
Robie Macdonald, Institute of Ocean Sciences,