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Introduction to Arctic-COLORSUnder the NASA ROSES 2012 and 2013 A.3 Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry program element, NASA advertised for scoping studies to identify the scientific questions and develop the initial study design and implementation concept for a new NASA Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry field campaign or related team project (scale on par with ICESCAPE, SO GasEx, etc.). Arctic-COLORS (Coastal Land Ocean Interactions in the Arctic) submitted a draft Strategic Science Plan in the summer of 2015.

NASA solicited for feedback on all aspects of the draft Strategic Science Plan for Arctic-COLORS from the community. Comment period closed Nov. 3, 2015. NASA was interested particularly for feedback to improve the strategic science plan under consideration including feedback on the science questions, approaches, measurements, missing components, and seeking to gauge interest in potential partnerships from international and domestic partners, etc.

  • Download Arctic-COLORS Final Strategic Science Plan [12.5 PDF]

NASA will only consider support for Arctic-COLORS if there is demonstrated community interest that the field campaign and science is state-of-the-art and addresses critical scientific challenges for oceanography and Earth System Science at NASA.

Comments on the draft Strategic Science Plan have been compiled. NASA will assimilate the comments and decide whether to move forward with competition of a Science Definition Team to develop the Implementation Plan for Arctic-COLORS. This decision will be made this calendar year (2015) or early next calendar year (2016). Anticipated field seasons would be tentatively slated for later this decade.



The Arctic region is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, triggering rapid social and economic changes and impacting both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Yet, our understanding of critical processes and interactions along the Arctic land-ocean interface is limited.

Arctic-COLORS (Arctic-COastal Land Ocean inteRactions) is a Field Campaign Scoping Study funded by NASA's Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program that aims to improve understanding and prediction of land-ocean interactions in a rapidly changing Arctic coastal zone, and assess vulnerability, response, feedbacks and resilience of coastal ecosystems, communities and natural resources to current and future pressures.

Science Questions

The science of the Arctic-COLORS field campaign program will be focused on five overarching questions:

1. How and where are materials from the land, atmosphere, and ocean transformed within the land-ocean continuum of the Arctic coastal zone? 

2. How does thawing of Arctic permafrost—either directly through coastal erosion or indirectly through changing freshwater loads from upstream thaw—translate to changes in coastal ecology and biogeochemistry?

3. How do changes in snow/ice conditions and coastal circulation influence Arctic coastal ecology and biogeochemistry?

4. How do changes in fluxes of materials, heat, and buoyancy from the land, atmosphere, and ocean influence Arctic coastal ecology and biogeochemistry? 

5. How do changing environmental (short-term) and climate (long-term) conditions alter the Arctic coastal zone’s availability and use of ecosystem services?


The geographical extent of this Arctic land-ocean exchange study is envisioned to extend in a core area from the Yukon Delta to the Mackenzie Delta, from the head of tidal influence on to the coastal shelf (pink-shaded region on map)


  • Intensive sampling and process experiments will be conducted from river mouths to outer shelf of large and small rivers from the Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea and Norton Sound regions and 3 coastal erosion sites. 
  • Key measurements will include primary productivity, air-sea fluxes, photooxidation, optics, biogeochemistry, physics, grazing, phytoplankton taxonomy, land-sea fluxes of carbon, sediments, and nutrients.
  • To resolve the seasonal cycle associated with biogeochemical processes in this region, five cruises/deployments will be conducted each year throughout each of four years.

The writing team was led by Dr. Antonio Mannino (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) and included project co-PIs: Drs. Carlos Del Castillo (NASA GSFC), Marjorie Friedrichs (VIMS), Peter Hernes (UC Davis), Patricia Matrai (Bigelow Lab), Joseph Salisbury (UNH), and Maria Tzortziou (CCNY CUNY).


Thank you for your time and efforts in helping NASA to refine the Arctic-COLORS field campaign.   


Best wishes, 

Paula Bontempi

Paula S. Bontempi, Ph.D.
Manager, Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program
NASA Headquarters