Search

Stay Connected

NOAA Research News

A Year Locked in Ice
Theo Stein
/ Categories: Research Headlines, Arctic

A Year Locked in Ice

Unprecedented international expedition to explore the central Arctic gets underway

The most ambitious research expedition ever to target the central Arctic got underway as the German icebreaker RV Polarstern pulled out of Tromso on September 20, destined for an ice floe where it will serve as a drifting base for hundreds of scientists during the next 13 months.  

More than 10 years after CIRES scientist Matthew Shupe conceived of the idea, the Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) has become a $150 million voyage of discovery led by the Alfred Wegener Institute, with significant funding by the US. Department of Energy and other US agencies. More than 400 scientists from 19 countries, including some of the world’s top Arctic researchers, will participate.

Years of planning help ease a hectic departure 

This is the first time a modern research icebreaker will operate in the direct vicinity of the North Pole year-round, including the nearly six-month long polar night during winter. In terms of the logistical challenges involved, the total number of participants, the number of participating countries, and the available budget, MOSAiC represents the largest Arctic expedition in history.

Image
NOAA/CIRES researcher Matthew Shupe, co-lead of MOSAiC talks with Thomas Krumpen, from the Alfred Wegener Institute on Sept. 19, 2019 in Tromso, Norway, as the mission prepares to launch. The German icebreaker Polarstern, which will be locked in ice for 13 months, is to the left. The support ship Russian Federov, right, will return to Norway in October, while Polarstern will remain frozen in the ice until next fall. Photo: Sara Morris, NOAA/CIRES

“It’s really amazing to see all the composure here during a really stressful time,” said Shupe, the U.S co-lead on the massive expedition, as dozens of scientists worked to install equipment on board just hours before Polarstern’s departure. “I am really energized by all these people and energy moving in the same direction. I see this around every corner of the ship.”  

Researchers will be conducting experiments and collecting data from the atmosphere, ice and ocean with instruments on board the Polarstern, and from locations up to several miles away, to explore the physical, chemical, and biological processes that drive the Arctic atmosphere, sea ice, ocean, and ecosystem. Results from the mission will help scientists improve models and forecasts of local, regional, and global weather and climate..

In total, scientists and funding agencies from 19 nations are involved. The United States represents the second-largest national funder with support from the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and NASA. The NOAA contingent is comprised primarily of CIRES scientists from NOAA Research’s Earth System Research Laboratory. 

First challenge: Where do you park an icebreaker?

After departing Tromsø, 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle, the ship will position itself so that it freezes into drifting ice as the polar night descends. Research during the roughly six months of darkness will present challenges on top of those delivered by the frigid Arctic winter. Special lights, night-vision goggles to watch for polar bears, and activities designed to maintain a healthy daily schedule in the close confines of the ship are some of the adaptations scientists will have to make.

Image
The German icebreaker Polarstern will serve as the hub of a floating base camp for hundreds of scientists studying the Arctic during the year-long expedition. To learn more about the logistics of the mission, visit: https://www.mosaic-expedition.org/expedition/ice-camp/ Credit: Alfred Wegener Institute

The expedition will be resupplied by four icebreakers from Sweden, Russia and China.

What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic

For the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Markus Rex, leader of the MOSAiC expedition, the Arctic is the “kitchen” for weather in the northern hemisphere. Extreme weather conditions like outbreaks of cold Arctic air in winter, or heat waves in summer, are linked to the changes in the Arctic, he said. Given that Arctic change is likely to have a global impact, research to improve climate models is of utmost importance. 

“There aren’t any reliable prognoses of how the Arctic climate will develop further or what that will mean for our weather,” said Rex. “Our mission is to change that.”

To learn more, visit CIRES' MOSAiC website and the Alfred Wegner Institute expedition website

Media contacts: Theo Stein, NOAA Communications: theo.stein@noaa.gov and Katy Human, CIRES Communications Director, at kathleen.human@colorado.edu.
 

 

Previous Article A Message from Craig McLean: Hurricane Dorian and Exceptional Service
Next Article Heat waves could increase substantially in size by mid-century, says new study
Print
24023

x

Popular Research News

Rise of carbon dioxide unabated

Rise of carbon dioxide unabated Read more

Atmospheric carbon dioxide measured at Mauna Loa Observatory reached a seasonal peak of 417.1 parts per million for 2020 in May, the highest monthly reading ever recorded. Monthly CO2 values at Mauna Loa first breached the 400 ppm threshold in 2014, and are now at levels not experienced by the atmosphere in several million years.

NOAA exploring impact of COVID-19 response on the environment

NOAA exploring impact of COVID-19 response on the environment Read more

NOAA has launched a wide-ranging research effort to investigate the impact of reduced vehicle traffic, air travel, shipping, manufacturing and other activities on Earth’s atmosphere and oceans due to the response to COVID-19.

Dangerous humid heat extremes occurring decades before expected

Dangerous humid heat extremes occurring decades before expected Read more

Climate models project that combinations of heat and humidity could reach deadly thresholds for anyone spending several hours outdoors by the end of the 21st century. However, new NOAA-supported research says these extremes are already happening — decades before anticipated — due to global warming to date.  

Warming influence of greenhouse gases continues to rise, NOAA finds

Warming influence of greenhouse gases continues to rise, NOAA finds Read more

NOAA’s Annual Greenhouse Gas Index tracks the concentrations of greenhouse gases being added to the atmosphere principally from human-caused emissions. The AGGI then calculates the heat being added to Earth's atmosphere and oceans as a result. 

NOAA teams with United Nations to create locust-tracking application

NOAA teams with United Nations to create locust-tracking application Read more

NOAA’s powerful air quality model used to track pollution from wildfires, volcanoes and industrial accidents is now being used to help warn communities across Africa and Asia of what have been called the worst locust swarms in a quarter century. 

RSS
«July 2020»
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
2829301234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930311
2345678

OAR HEADQUARTERS

Phone: 301-713-2458
Address: 1315 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910

Stay Connected

ABOUT US

Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) - or "NOAA Research" - provides the research foundation for understanding the complex systems that support our planet. Working in partnership with other organizational units of the NOAA, a bureau of the Department of Commerce, NOAA Research enables better forecasts, earlier warnings for natural disasters, and a greater understanding of the Earth. Our role is to provide unbiased science to better manage the environment, nationally, and globally.

CONTACT US

Can't Find What You Need?
Send Feedback
Copyright 2018 by NOAA Terms Of Use Privacy Statement
Back To Top