Temperature data from Norwegian and Russian waters of the northern Barents Sea collected by free-living ringed seals
Free-living ringed seals ( N=11) equipped with satellite-relayed data loggers (SRDLs) with incorporated oceanographic-quality temperature sensors were used to collect data from a large sector of the northern Barents Sea during the autumn and early winter. A total of 2346 temperature profiles were collected over a 4-month period from Norwegian and Russian arctic waters in areas that were at times 90-100% ice-covered. Temperature distributions at different depths from northeastern parts of Svalbard, Norway show warm North Atlantic water (NAW) flowing along the continental slope and gradually cooling at all depths as it flows eastwards. The data suggest that most of the cooling takes place west of 30°E. Vertical temperature profiles from the area between Svalbard and Franz Josef Land, Russia show how the surface water cools during freeze-up and demonstrate a warm water flow, which is probably NAW, coming in from the north through a deep trench west of Franz Josef Land. Global oceanographic and climate models require improved oceanographic databases from crucial areas where important hydrological phenomena occur. Such areas in arctic waters are often inaccessible during winter and logistically difficult to reach even in summer. The present study demonstrates how large amounts of oceanographic information can be collected and retrieved in a cost-efficient manner using ice-associated marine mammals as carrier of oceanographic sampling equipment. In addition to the oceanographic value of the data collected by marine mammals in this manner, a vast amount of information regarding the habitat of these animals is concomitantly sampled.