INTERNATIONAL ARCTIC RESEARCH CENTER — UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS

People of IARC

pnyushkov

Andrey Pnyushkov

Research Assistant Professor Andrey Pnyushkov studies mesoscale processes in the Eurasian Basin of the Arctic Ocean, in an effort to quantify interactions between physical processes of the ocean, sea ice, and the atmosphere. In the face of recent changes to the region’s climate dynamics, Dr. Pnyushkov has worked to identify the properties of tidal currents and their relation to changes in sea ice cover.

Contact Dr. Pnyushkov

What has been most significant about your recent work?

It is clear that oceanic and atmospheric processes in the Eurasian Basin are experiencing significant changes. We are working to determine ocean processes contributing to the spread of heat from the relatively warm, salty layer of Atlantic water propagating within the Arctic Ocean at intermediate depths toward the upper ocean layer.

Our findings show that under conditions of summer sea-ice retreat, tidal currents from Russia’s Laptev Sea are amplified, which may be important for heat transport due to dissipated tidal energy and enhanced mixing.

We are also analyzing “mesoscale eddies”—isolated circulation features propagating with general Basin currents. These eddies may carry anomalously warm or cold water in their cores and may, like tidal currents, provide additional mixing—extremely important for vertical heat transport. Observations and analyses of these eddies will lead us to a more precise understanding of the effects of warm Atlantic water upon Arctic sea ice and regional climate.

As a rule, our research combines observations (temperature, salinity, speed of currents) from extensive IARC expeditions like NABOS (the Nansen and Amundsen Basins Observational System) with numerical ROMS (Regional Oceanic Modeling System) modeling, providing as complete a picture of physical Arctic Ocean processes as possible.

How is your research important to larger scientific communities or the public?

For us to have a clear picture of our global climate system, we must better understand the full scope of their processes, including those in the most remote parts of the world. The global climate is greatly affected by the Arctic’s extreme processes, including diminishing sea ice cover and changes in polar-ward oceanic heat transport.

Also, the difficulty and expense of conducting good science in extreme parts of the world leads to a premium on its results—the harder the research, the less likely it is to occur. So for a place like the Arctic, where drastic and consequential change is being accelerated, the importance of having robust, reliable observational data is abundantly clear.

What led you to your study of science?

When I was younger, I had many interests. But because of Russia’s national promotion of sciences through its school programs, I became focused in that area. And because of institutional partnerships at my school—particularly with the Russian State Hydrometeorological University in St. Petersburg—I became inspired to follow in these scientists’ study of the ocean and atmosphere.

Since then, I’ve maintained a fascination with the ocean and its vast depths. Similar to outer space, there’s much left to explore and discover about the world’s oceans, and they are much closer to home than other planets and stars. Humans have been studying outer space for centuries; oceanic science, though just as interesting, is still a young enterprise.

What interests do you have outside of your field of study?

In my free time, I very much enjoy spending time with family. My other intellectual interests include a deep curiosity with technology, which I’ve been able to use in the design and systems administration of my work, and other fields of science, including physics and space science.

Map of the Eurasian Basin and Arctic Ocean, inset with diagram of mooring schematic.
Map of the Eurasian Basin and Arctic Ocean, inset with diagram of mooring schematic.
Tidal current amplitudes (red line) and sea-ice concentration (blue line) from the eastern Eurasian Basin. Yellow dots show mooring locations. Tidal currents peaked when sea ice over the mooring site was absent, in August-September 2005.
Tidal current amplitudes (red line) and sea-ice concentration (blue line) from the eastern Eurasian Basin. Yellow dots show mooring locations. Tidal currents peaked when sea ice over the mooring site was absent, in August-September 2005.
Andrey Pnyushkov, research expedition on Svalbard, 2009 (Photo by P. Bogorodsky).
Andrey Pnyushkov, research expedition on Svalbard, 2009 (Photo by P. Bogorodsky).