The Western Arctic from the CBL 2002 cruise
Monday and Wednesday 11:30-12:20, Lectures
Friday 11:30-12:20, Question and Answer Session
Mary Gates Hall, Rm 241

Spring Quarter 2017 - Ocean 235
- an interdisciplinary science-based look at what
everyone should know about the Arctic in our world today
Ocean 235A - 2 credits.  Ocean 235B - 3 credits, a core course for UW's new Arctic Studies Minor

Instructor: Dr. Rebecca Woodgate
Senior (Physical) Oceanographer/
APL Associate Professor WOT
Polar Science Center/School of Oceanography  Tel: 206-221-3268
Room: 529, Henderson Hall, Applied Physics Laboratory
Max Showalter
Teaching Assistant:  Max Showalter
Graduate Student,
Biological Oceanography,
School of Oceanography Tel: 206-543-0147
Room: 364, Marine Sciences Building
Last edited 19th April 2017
-learning objectives
-course structure and 2 vs 3 credit option
-exams, grading and rules
- general schedule
- preliminary timetable
- homeworks

- class UW Catalyst site
- class UW Canvas Site

- lecture notes
- readings
- other links
  Saturday 13th May 2017
(Details given in class.
Students to confirm
participation by 10th April)



     The Arctic is no longer remote.  Arctic sea-ice loss, shipping (commercial and tourist) through the legendary Northwest Passage, the international land-grab for the North Pole and the Arctic sea floor, Arctic oil and gas exploration, the fate of the polar bear - these and more are all household terms.  Yet, many people's understanding of this system and the reality of the issues is based primarily on news and media coverage.  The UW houses a remarkably wide range of world-class Arctic research - this course will access that knowledge base and provide an interdisciplinary, science-based introduction to Arctic science and topical world issues that are at the forefront of understanding how the Arctic works today, how the Arctic is changing, and what impacts those changes may have on us.

     We will investigate the Arctic ocean, ice and atmosphere system; Arctic ecosystems from the "charismatic megafauna" (polar bears and more) to the (not so charismatic?) microbes that exist inside the matrix structure of sea-ice; and how humans interact with the Arctic system.  We will study how we got to know what we know, how we advance our knowledge now, and how Arctic studies may look in the future.  We will consider how the components interact, how they are changing, what the future may hold, and what international governments are squabbling over at the minute.  We will include guest lectures by internationally recognized UW experts in a wide range of fields.

     The course is offered at the 200 level, to interest both those considering a major in science and those who seek a topical course to fulfill an out-of-option requirement.  It will provide a level of understanding suitable for those going onto a career in many non-science fields, including education, government advising, and Arctic-relevant industry.  It will also provide a science introduction that may spark enthusiasm for a major in science.
       This course is offered at the 2-credit and 3-credit level.  Students seeking an introduction to the material with a smaller commitment of time are recommended to take the 2-credit version.  The course is a core course of UW's new Arctic Studies Minor, and to qualify for the Arctic Minor, this course should be taken at the 3-credit level.

Learning Objectives

By the end of the course, you should have:

- qualitative and quantitative fact-based interdisciplinary knowledge of the key aspects of the Arctic system, including how the components of the system interact, and the current challenges and possible future impacts of Arctic Change;

- an ability to critically, qualitatively and quantitatively assess information  from various sources (e.g., media, academic research, internet), especially in issues concerning the Arctic; and

      - an enthusiasm for a realm that is at the forefront of science and exploration in our world today.


An enquiring mind. 

Course Structure and 2 versus 3 credit option

The course material is drawn from the cutting edge of current Arctic research, thus there is no text-book for the variety of material we will cover.  The main instruction medium will be:

     - two 50min class sessions a week,  Mondays, and Wednesdays, 11:30-12:20, in Mary Gates Hall, Rm 241

reinforced with:

     - a weekly TA session, Fridays 11:30-12:20, in Mary Gates Hall, Rm 241

     - readings from various UW-accessible sources (links provided via this website/UW class pages),

     - instructor office hours (on request).
     - TA office hours (on request).
For the 2-credit option, you are expected to attend the lectures, do the readings, homeworks and exams, and are welcome to attend the Friday TA sessions.
For the 3-credit option, you are expected to attend the lectures and the Friday TA session, and to do extended readings, homeworks and exams.

Topics (with approximate number of lectures)

Arctic Basics (1) - the "trivia" questions - how big, how far, how deep, how cold; a basic introduction to the system.

Arctic Atmosphere (1) - Polar Night; the Polar Vortex; implications of the Coriolis force; the "Arctic Oscillation" (a short-hand for Arctic climate variability).

Arctic Ocean Circulation (3) - what goes in, what comes out, and where and why?  temperature and salinity as the accent of sea-water;  circulation of waters from the Pacific and the Atlantic, and how (well) we trace them; the unforeseen advantage of nuclear reprocessing; Arctic-wide manifestation of molecular scale processes; the mysteries of "the Deeps"; what if the ice goes away entirely (in summer)?

Arctic Ice (2) - knowing what you can stand on; ice types, formation and decay; ice impacts on atmosphere and ocean; the ice-albedo feedback; tracking ice from space; ice as somewhere to live.

Case study - Over 50% of the US fish catch (2) - the Bering Sea Ecosystem (including guest lecture by Professor George Hunt).

Life on and under the ice (1) - the charismatic Megafauna - polar bears, whales, seals and more (including guest lecture by Dr Sue Moore).

Life in the Ice (1) - the (not so charismatic?) Arctic microbes and ice and water biology (guest lecture by graduate student (and our TA) Max Showalter).

Historic Exploration (1) - the Fram (old and new); the race for the North Pole; Borneo (no, that's not a typo).

Arctic Science - how we do it (1) - ships; satellites; ice camps; moorings; autonomous monitoring; gliders under the ice; modeling; real life issues (costs, clearances, international logistics); optional weekend field trip to USCGC Healy.

Case Study - The Blame Game (1) - loss of 70% of the summer sea-ice; what is causing extreme Arctic sea-ice retreat, why didn't we see it coming.

Modern Exploitation (1) - oil and gas resources; Law of the Sea; the Arctic Landgrab; shipping and the Northwest Passage; the growing responsibility of the Coast Guard and Navy; international governance (including guest lecture by Professor Tom Leschine).

The role of the Arctic in the World (1) - CO2 uptake; Greenland and implications of its loss; the day after tomorrow? Arctic and the flywheels of global climate. ships;
Humans of the
Arctic (1)
- native communities, previous and current lifestyles, languages and customs, the whaling controversy
(including guest lecture by Dr Nadine Fabbi).

Arctic versus Antarctic (1) - sea-ice change at both poles, ice-shelves and ice sheets, the Antarctic Treaty, green icebergs.


Exams, Grading and Rules

Exams and Grading: Grades will be assigned on a combination of homeworks and written examinations, and will draw on material discussed in lectures or in assigned readings.  The final exam is on all the course material.  Homeworks and exams will mostly be short answer questions, some verbal, some quantitative, some graphical.  Homework deadlines and details are below.  The relative contribution of components to the final grade is:

     Homeworks  - 50%

     Written mid-term exam  - 15%

     Written final exam  - 35%

There are no make-up exams.  There is no acceptance of late homework (except in exceptional circumstances, with prearrangement with the instructor).   Student athletes and students with other legitimate conflicts need to contact the instructor at the beginning of the quarter to make arrangements for the exams. 

Academic Honest:
A goal of university education is for you, yourself, to learn the material.  While you may discuss homeworks with your classmates and colleagues, homework assignments must be your own original work and you will work independently on the midterm and the final exam.  We expect all students to maintain the highest standards of academic conduct.  The UW standards are outlined in various UW sites, including here.

Student Athletes: The Student Athlete Travel Notification form (supplied by the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics) indicating which classes will be missed must be turned in to instructors at the start of the quarter. We will discuss how you can fulfill the requirements.

Academic Accommodations
: To request academic accommodations because of a disability, please contact the Disability Resources for Students (DRS),,
011 Mary Gates, 206-543-8924. Please present a letter at the start of the quarter to the instructor so we can provide appropriate accommodations.

General schedule
Lectures will be held  Mondays and Wednesdays 11:30-12:20 in Mary Gates Hall, Rm 241.  All students are expected to attend all the lectures.
A weekly TA-led question and answer session will be held Fridays 11:30-12:20, at the same location.  Those doing the 3-credit version of the class are expected to attend the TA session.  Those doing the 2-credit version may also attend if they wish.
Office hours are available with the instructor and with the TA
by appointment - email us:  Rebecca Woodgate (;   Max Showalter (
The tour (highly recommended, but optional) of the USCGC Healy, ported at the USCG base in downtown Seattle (~ 1-2 hr) is planned for Saturday 13th May 2017. More details will be given in class.

Provisional Timetable

Monday 11:30
Wednesday 11:30
Friday 11:30 TA session
Mar 27 - 31
Welcome to the Arctic
HW1 set
Arctic Atmospheres  - the top of the world
Review (especially Atmospheres)
Apr 3 - 7
Arctic Sea-ice I
HW1 due; HW2 set
Arctic Sea-ice II  Review (especially Sea-ice)
Apr 10 - 14
Arctic Ocean I
HW2 due; HW3 set
Confirm participation in the Healy Tour
Arctic Ocean II
Review (especially Oceans)
Apr 17 - 21
Arctic Ocean III
HW3 due;  no HW this week, instead revise for Midterm
Case Study: Bering Sea - home of 50% of the US fish catch
Review and mid-term revision
Apr 24 - 28
Midterm Exam
HW4 set
Life IN Ice
- (Max Showalter)

Mid-term debrief
May 1 - 5
Ecosystems of the Bering Sea
- Guest lecture Prof George Hunt

HW4 due; HW5 set
Life ON/UNDER Ice - the charismatic Megafauna
Guest lecture Dr Sue Moore
Arctic Council, UNCLOS, Arctic Shipping
May 8 - 12
Historic and modern exploration - from voyages into the unknown to tourist camps
HW5 due; HW6 set
Doing Arctic Science - methods of modern Arctic research
Review (especially Biology)
(Also: USCGC Healy tour on 
Saturday 13th May 2017
May 15 - 19
Case Study: Unexpected Arctic sea-ice retreats - causes and implications
HW6 due; HW7 set
Oil and the Arctic
- Guest lecture Prof Tom Leschine

Magazine Article review
May 22 - 26
The Arctic's impact on the world
HW7 due; HW8 set
Inuit Internationalism in the Arctic
- Guest lecture Dr Nadine Fabbi

May 29 - Jun 2

  Memorial Day - no class
Arctic versus Antarctic
HW8 due
Final cramming on anything you like!
Exam Week
Final Exam - Wednesday 7th June 2017  2:30-4:20pm MGH 241

Homework Purpose, Timetable and details
Written homeworks make up 50% of the grade for this class.  The goals of the homeworks are to help you (a) learn the material; (b) gain skills in identifying and using reliable sources to extend your knowledge base; and (c) to gain skills in communicating that knowledge to others. 
The homework timetable is in the table below.  Details of homeworks will be available via links in the table. There is no acceptance of late homework (except in exceptional circumstances, with prearrangement with the instructor). All homeworks are worth equal marks.  Only your 7 best homework marks will count towards your final homework grade.

While you may discuss homeworks with your classmates and colleagues, homework assignments must be your own original effort.  Plagiarism is academic misconduct.  (If you are unclear what constitutes plagiarism, see here or talk with us at the start of the quarter.)  The homeworks that are to be submitted via Canvas will be automatically checked for plagiarism via UW's licence with VeriCite, an educational tool that helps prevent or identify plagiarism from Internet resources.  For more details on UW's use of VeriCite, see here.  Note that, by default, VeriCite will store assignments for the duration of UW's contract with VeriCite, however, on request, students may have their assignments deleted from the VeriCite database after the class is over.  To exercise this option, see information here, or contact us. 

In general, marked homeworks will be available for pickup at the Friday TA session after they are due, although there may be slight delays the cases of the longer written homeworks.  Queries about returned homeworks should be made within a week of the available-for-pickup date.

Homework schedule  - assignments are available via links below and on the Catalyst site (here)Homework solutions will also be posted on the catalyst site.
Type of HW
Mon 27th March (Wk1)
Wk2 Mon 3rd April 11:30am
Short answer questions.
(Hand in paper copy in class.  3-credit extra HW to be submitted to the class Canvas site)
Mon 3rd April (Wk2)
Wk3 Mon 10th April 11:30am
DIY Sea-ice experimental write-up.
(Either submit a paper copy in class, or upload a pdf file to the class Canvas site)
HW2 Key2
Mon 10th April (Wk3)
Wk4 Mon 17th April 11:30am
Short answer questions.
(Hand in paper copy in class.  3-credit extra HW to be submitted to the class Canvas site)

No HW set Wk4, instead revise for Mid Term

Mon 24th April (Wk5)
Wk 6 Mon 1st May 11:30am
Short answer questions
(Hand in paper copy in class.  3-credit extra HW to be submitted to the class Canvas site)

Mon 1st May (Wk6)
Wk 7 Mon 8th May 11:30am
Topical Magazine Article
(upload file to the class Canvas site - .doc./ .docx required)

Mon 8th May (Wk7)
Wk 8 Mon 15th May 11:30am
USCGC Healy Questionnaire
(Hand in paper copy in class.  3-credit extra HW to be submitted to the class Canvas site)

Mon 15th May (Wk8)
Wk 9 Mon 22nd May 11:30am
Short answer questions
(Hand in paper copy in class.  3-credit extra HW to be submitted to the class Canvas site)

Mon 22nd May (Wk9)
Wk 10 Wed 31st May 11:30am
Topical Magazine Article
(upload file to the class Canvas site - .doc./ .docx required)

Lecture notes, readings and links
As the class progresses, notes/handouts from lectures and papers for readings will be posted here (Class Catalyst page).  (Class membership required for access to the notes and handouts.)
Wk1 - Monday 27th March 2017.  Lecture 1: Welcome to the Arctic    Lecture notes, handouts, papers via class Catalyst page
        IBCAO - International Bathymetric Chart of the Arctic Ocean   and paper about it (Jakobsson et al, 2012)
         All you ever wanted to know about Arctic depths -  Hypsometry and Volume of the Arctic Ocean and Constituent Seas, Jakobsson 2002
        UIUC Cryosphere Today, images and movies from Chapman et al 
              (scroll down to "older products" to get the movie of the 2007 Sea-ice retreat)
         National Snow and Ice Data Center - main pageArctic Sea Ice news and analysis
         International Arctic Buoy Program  ... and the movie of the buoy motion

Wk1 - Wednesday 29th March 2017.   Lecture 2: The Atmosphere of the Arctic   Lecture notes, handouts, papers via class Catalyst page    
         Animation of the Polar Vortex 
         Overview paper on Ozone Holes, Solomon 1999 (research level)
         YouTube movie of the Coriolis Force
         Nasa Arctic Ozone Watch explanation of the Polar Vortex    and  2011 ozone loss
         UW tips on identifying reliable internet information
         National Geographic schematics of High AO and Low AO
         Reading - Arctic Oscillation from NOAA, Arctic - easy, short, with other interesting links
         Optional readings - On Arctic and Antarctic Oscillations - Wallace, 2000 - pretty comprehensive, reasonably readable, but a little old
                                      - Arctic Atmosphere in the Arctic Report Card - pretty much the latest and greatest, but assumes you know a lot already
               For copies of papers referred to in lectures, see our Catalyst site (UW restricted)
         3-credit readings:
         - Kim et al, 2014, Nature, Weakening of the stratospheric polar vortex by Arctic sea-ice loss
         - Manney et al, 2011, Nature, Unprecedented Arctic Ozone Loss in 2011

Wk2 - Monday 3rd April 2017.   Lecture 3: The Frozen Ocean - Part 1  Lecture notes, handouts, papers via class Catalyst page  
          YouTube movie of ice ridging (with sounds)
          NSIDC Sea-Ice Index - Charts of ice extent, changes with time, etc.
          Polar Bear hunting seal movie - BBC Spies on Ice
          Life in Sea-ice Krembs and Deming, Organisms that thrive in Arctic sea ice (see also week 5 lecture)
          Life under Sea-ice, Gradinger
          Reading  - NSIDC introduction to sea ice, especially sections Formation, Salinity and Brine, and Multiyear Ice
                         - Sea-ice is our Highway - importance of sea-ice to the Inuit Way of life - overview by Chester Reimer, Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada
          Optional readings
          - Eicken 2003, Review Article on micro to macro scale properties of sea-ice
          - Sea-ice is our Highway - An Inuit perspective on Transportation in the Arctic - Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada
          3-credit readings:
         - Weissenberger et al, 1992, Limn & Ocean, Sea ice: A cast technique to examine and analyze brine pockets and channel structure
          - Maslanik et al, 2007, Geophys. Res. Lett., A younger thinner Arctic ice cover:  Increased potential for rapid, extensive sea-ice loss

Wk2 - Wednesday 8th April 2017. Lecture 4:  The Frozen Ocean - Part 2
Lecture notes, handouts, papers via class Catalyst page
          Arctic Oases: The role of polynyas - from the Arctic Council
         UW Polar Science webpage on fastice,
          Forecasting the Barrow Ice breakup, Eicken, UAF
          Compiled photos of the Barrow webcam, showing the daily variation in sea ice conditions for one year: 2007, 2008
          More on Shishmaref, Alaska,  - the village,
       Sassats - the photos, the (a?) newstory (Canadian Geographic,1999), the movie (BBC)
Ice Albedo (NSIDC)
                          Sea ice Motion (NSIDC)
                          Polynyas (NSIDC)
          Optional reading: 
Age of Sea-ice movies (and explanation) from Ignatius Rigor, UW4.

Wk3 - Monday 10th April 2017.  Lecture 5:  Getting into the Arctic Ocean Lecture notes, handouts, papers via class Catalyst page
          Arctic Great Rivers Observatory
          NOAA-Arctic change - summary of changes in river discharge
          River discharge data from   ArcticRIMS
          NSIDC - Factors affecting Arctic weather and climate (including, briefly, precipitation)     
          Bering Strait research at the UW  including 2015 Cruise Blog
          Bering Strait School District video on Little Diomede - footage from the helicopter ride to LD, plus around the village
          Kawerak Inc pages on Little Diomede,and Wales
        Local and Traditional Knowledge from Kawerak, Inc., Nome
          Indigenous Knowledge and Use of Bering Strait Region Ocean Currents, J.Raymond-Yakoubian et al, 2014 - report, book
         Webcams from Little Diomede
          Reading:  Arctic Ocean Circulation: Going around at the top of the world, Woodgate, 2013, Nature Education Knowledge
          Optional Readings: 
          - The 2007 Bering Strait Oceanic heat Flux and ..., Woodgate et al., 2010, Geophys. Res. Let.
          - Interdisciplinary Synthesis of Bering Strait moorings to 2014, Woodgate, et al, 2015, Oceanography
          - The Large-scale freshwater cycle of the Arctic, Serreze et al, 2006, JGR
          3-credit Reading:
          - parts of  A synthesis of Exchanges through the main Oceanic Gateways to the Arctic, Beszcznska-Moeller et al, 2011, Oceanography 

Wk3 - Wednesday 12th April 2017.  Lecture 6: Arctic Ocean 2 
Lecture notes, handouts, papers via class Catalyst page
          Introduction to eddies (by Andreas Muenchow)     
          UNIS - The University Center in Svalbard
          Photo Gallery of life on the North Pole Drifting Station (NSIDC archives)
Reading:  (at least Abstract and Figures) of Circulation of Pacific Summer Water in the Arctic, Steele et al., 2004, J. Geophys.Res.
          Optional reading:  Barents Sea Ecosystems and Climate Change (Loeng and Drinkwater, 2007)

Wk4 - Monday 17th April 2017.  Lecture 7: Stirring things up in the Arctic - Atlantic Water Circulation, Deep Water, Processes 
Lecture notes, handouts, papers via class Catalyst page
           AOS94 - US-Canadian Arctic Ocean Crossing - First Major Scientific Crossing of the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean Circulation: Going around at the top of the world, Woodgate, 2013, Nature Education Knowledge
Nature Article on Arctic Warming (Quadfasel et al, 1991)
          Optional reading:  Fate of 2000s Arctic warm water pulse (Polyakov et al, 2011, BAMS)
                          Berge et al., 2017  Amphipod and Arctic cycling
          Other papers referred to in the lecture as on the Catalyst site for ease of access. 

Wk4 - Wednesday 19th April 2017.  Lecture 10: Bering Sea I 
Lecture notes, handouts, papers via class Catalyst page
          ESSAS - Ecosystem Studies of Sub-Arctic Seas
          BSIERP-BEST Project
          North Pacific Research Board
          NMFS Climate Strategy Presentation, Feb 2016, M Sigler et al.,
          An Empty Donut Hole: The Great Collapse of a North American Fishery, K. Bailey, 2011
          2016 Science Magazine article on Arctic Fishing Ban, Kintisch
           Simulations of the Bering Sea - BESTMAS by Jinlun Zhang, UW
          NOAA Bering Climate website (with essays on many aspects of the Bering Sea)
          NOAA Bering Sea Overview
        Bering Strait research at the UW  including 2015 Cruise Blog
        The PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation)
          Reading:  Why is the Bering Sea Important - Vera Alexander, NOAA Bering Climate site
          Optional Reading:  Regime Shift in the Bering Sea - Grebmeier et al, 2006, Science
                          Other essays at the NOAA Bering Climate website
                           Physical Forcing of the Bering Sea Shelf - Stabeno et al, 2005, The Sea

Other useful links:
         UIUC Cryosphere Today, images and movies from Chapman et al       
         NOAA Arctic site - source for much basic information explaining aspects of Arctic change, with many links to useful sites. Good starting point to refresh your understanding of the basics, and get leads for areas of research.  Written for the public rather than expert scientists.  See also the Arctic Report Card.
         NSIDC Education site - more general information about the Arctic.
         NSIDC Arctic Sea-ice News - monthly update on the state of Arctic sea-ice.  

Other useful links
Meet the instructor
  Associate Professor Rebecca Woodgate - UW physical oceanographer, specializing in the Arctic

How to find reliable information
  One pillar of the world of science is the peer-reviewed literature.  Here, after review by other experts in the field, scientists publish their findings in detail, so others can test their results.  Those at UW can access this resource though the libraries and on-line search engines available here . (See search engines in box on right - Web of Science works quite well for the Arctic.)  You can set these links up to work from outside UW using the UW Libraries off-campus Proxy service .

Keeping up to date with the Arctic
    Google Alerts - allows you to get weekly, daily or as-it-happens notification of articles posted on the internet. Just add search terms.
    Arctic Mailing list - ArcticInfo - an NSF-sponsored moderated mailing list for items of interest to Arctic researchers (usually reports or meetings, but sometimes jobs or cruise openings)

USCGC HEALY TOUR       -  Saturday 13th May 2017
Healy photo
(image from USCG)
The USCGC Healy is the leading US research icebreaker. She has extensive lab and deck space for science, and state of the art oceanographic equipment.  She can break 4.5 ft of ice at 3 knots, and 8 ft of ice backing and ramming.  She can carry a (usually interdisciplinary) science team of 35 scientists.  Her home port is Seattle, and we have organized a science tour of the vessel (~ 1-2hrs) specially for this class on Saturday 13th May 2017.  To obtain the necessary clearances to access the USCG base, student participation must be confirmed by 10th April 2017.  Details will be given in class.

For visit schedule, see class catalyst site (under Healy Tour)

(image from USCG)

Your input is important.  This is the second time this interdisciplinary class has been taught at this level.  Let us know what else you would like to see done in this class, what works well, (and what works badly). 

Email Rebecca Woodgate.   If you prefer to send anonymous feedback, use THIS link.