Alaska OA Moorings Provide Another Season of Data

GAKOA in Resurrection Bay, Alaska. Photo: D. Naber.

The Ocean Acidification Research Center (OARC) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks completed another successful mooring season this spring.  OARC has been monitoring OA at sites near Seward in Resurrection Bay (GAKOA) and in the southeastern Bering Sea (M2) for more than seven years.  These sites provide information about the intensity, extent, and duration of OA in Alaskan waters.

Blue stars represent the mooring locations: M2 in the Bering Sea and GAKOA in the northern Gulf of Alaska

Each spring, the moorings are “turned around” which means the sensors are replaced so the data can be downloaded and analyzed by scientists. It also allows the scientists to clear any biofouling on the sensors, which can affect the accuracy and precision of the measurements.

The GAKOA surface buoy collects OA data throughout the year and is turned around in May using the M/V Acorn, operated by Storm Chasers Marine Center Inc in Seward.  OARC mooring technician, Daniel Naber, has been in charge of the turn around for GAKOA for the last three years and in the future, you’ll be able to see him aboard the R/V Sikuliaq in his new role as marine technician.

The M2 mooring in the Bering Sea is affectionately known as “Peggy”. Photo credit: Natalie Monacci.

The surface buoy at the M2 site is only out for the summer, since this site is typically covered by sea ice during the winter.  In the spring, the NOAA Ship Dyson deploys the surface buoy and turns around the subsurface mooring line, which is out year round.  In the fall, the surface buoy is removed to avoid damage by ice.  The M2 site is in a highly productive area which receives high commercial fishing traffic, and each season researchers breathe a sigh of relief when it is not caught in a trawl line.

Turning around buoys can be a tricky feat depending on weather, as it requires the research vessel to stay onsite while researchers and crew hoist the buoy. This year was no different.

“We lucked out again in the Bering Sea,” said OARC Deputy Director Natalie Monacci, who oversaw the turn over aboard the Dyson.  “We managed to sneak in the M2 recovery and deployment between 2 storms, both with over 45 knot winds.”

The OARC’s moorings are funded by the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS), NOAA Ocean Acidification Program, and the State of Alaska.

Biofouling is evident on the bottom of GAKOA in May 2017. Photo credit: D. Naber

The GAKOA and M2 sites are both part of larger, multi-decade projects.  The GAK1 time series is run by oceanographers at the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences (CFOS) at UAF and has been making year round measurements since 1998.  The M2 time series is run by our collaborators at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and has been making year round measurements since 1995.   OARC is excited to continue OA measurements along side our colleagues at these long-term oceanographic mooring locations.


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