View from ship southeastern Alaska
The coast of Alaska and the Bering Glacier as seen from the JOIDES Resolution. Credit: John Beck, IODP/TAMU

The northern Pacific, Bering Sea, and western Arctic contain important records of linked tectonic and paleoceanographic histories. Scientific drilling expeditions in this region will expand our understanding of several key areas, including the history of exposure and flooding of the Bering Strait, the connection of Arctic Ocean chemistry and circulation with the Pacific Ocean, the evolution of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet, the history of Aleutian volcanism, and the assessment of geologic hazards related to the North Pacific subduction zone.

To address these topics, researchers gathered at a planning workshop on scientific drilling in the North Pacific, Bering Sea, and Arctic Ocean. This International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) workshop brought together 76 scientists from the United States, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, and Japan to discuss the scientific possibilities of ocean drilling expeditions to the region, supported by the U.S.-operated drilling ship the JOIDES Resolution. The meeting was designed for the participants to identify fellow enthusiasts for their regional science objectives and to form proponent groups to submit proposals for scientific drilling to IODP.

Fig. 1. Planned ship track for the JOIDES Resolution, annotated with the year that the ship will be in these areas. The locations of proposals discussed at this meeting are indicated by blue stars. Credit: Anthony Koppers at Oregon State University (modified with permission)

The primary motivation for this meeting was the anticipated ship track plan (Figure 1) for the JOIDES Resolution to arrive in the Pacific in 2023, a tremendous opportunity for planning and achieving high-priority science objectives in this region. A successful drilling proposal typically takes 4 years from initial submission through multiple evaluations to be selected for scheduling. As a result, the rationale for the meeting was to generate as many new drilling proposals as possible to exploit the planned availability of the drill ship.

A primary focus was the coupling of continental climates and processes—mediated by sea level change—with seafloor records.

Presenters in the plenary sessions framed the scientific issues in the region, including volcanic and volatile cycling processes, earthquake records and tectonics, gas hydrates, paleoclimate and the history of the glaciation and sea level change, and life in extreme environments. Given the lack of drilling in the region and its proximity to two continents, many of these problems have been defined by what is known from the land. A primary focus of many of the objectives discussed at the meeting was the coupling of continental climates and processes—mediated by sea level change—with seafloor records.

Breakout groups were defined by IODP themes—Earth in motion, climate, and Earth connections—as well as the three regions of interest. Participants considered application essays, preworkshop white papers, and plenary presentations, assessing them in terms of the opportunities that these proposed potential drilling locations offered for building our understanding of Earth’s history. Toward the end of the workshop, self-organized groups discussed specific proposal ideas and plans for submission and identified initial proponent groups.

A particular focus of this workshop was getting new people and early-career scientists involved with the drilling program. To support this goal, a short preworkshop session discussed the process of preparing, submitting, and revising drilling proposals, as well as what happens after a proposal is selected for scheduling. Early-career scientists comprised roughly 40% of workshop attendees, and approximately 25% of attendees were new to IODP.

This workshop was supported by the U.S. Science Support Program, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. More information about the meeting and access to workshop reports are available on the workshop website.

—Lindsay L. Worthington (, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; Kristen St. John, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va.; and Bernard Coakley, University of Alaska Fairbanks


Worthington, L. L.,St. John, K., and Coakley, B. (2019), The future of scientific drilling in the North Pacific and Arctic, Eos, 100, Published on 01 February 2019.

Text © 2019. The authors. CC BY 3.0
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