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Researchers on the world’s biggest mission to North Pole returns from ‘Dying Arctic’, what was the mission and how it was commenced: Everything you must know

The team of several hundred scientists from 20 countries has seen for themselves the dramatic effects of global warming on ice in the region which has been considered the epicentre of climate change.

Oct 12, 2020 13:36 IST
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The Polarstern Ship of the German Alfred Wegner Institute has returned to the port of Bremerhaven after spending 389 days drifting through the Arctic trapped in ice. It has allowed scientists to gather vital information on the effects of global warming in the region.

Researchers who have been on the world’s biggest mission to the North pole will be returning to the dock on October 12, 2020, and will bring home some devastating proof of a dying Arctic Ocean and warnings of ice-free summers in just a few decades.

What is the Polarstern Mission?

The Polarstern Mission has spent over a year collecting data on sea ice, ocean, atmosphere, and ecosystems in order to help assess the impact of climate change on the region as well as in the world.

Ever since on September 20, 2019, the ship departed from Tromso, Norway, the crew saw the long months of complete darkness and temperatures as low as -39.5 celsius.

Details of the Polarstern Mission

•  Four observational sites were set up on the sea ice to carry out the research in a radius of up to 40 km around the ship.

•  The researchers on the mission collected the water samples from beneath the ice during the polar night to study the plant plankton and bacteria as well as to better understand how the marine ecosystem functions under extreme conditions.

•  The expedition of $140 million euros will also be bringing back 150 terabytes of data and more than 1,000 ice samples.

•  The team of the researchers measured more than 100 parameters almost continuously throughout the year and have been hoping that the information will be providing a breakthrough in understanding the Arctic and climate system.

•  To analyse the data, it will take up to two years, with an aim of developing the models to help predict what heavy rains, heat waves, or storms can look like in 20, 50, or 100 years of time.

Witnessing the ‘Dying Arctic Ocean’:

As per the mission leader Markus Rex, the team of several hundred scientists from 20 countries has seen for themselves the dramatic effects of global warming on ice in the region which has been considered the epicentre of climate change.

He added that the scientists witnessed how the Arctic Ocean is dying and saw this process right outside the windows or when they walked on the brittle ice.

While underlining how the sea ice has melted away, Markus Rex informed that the mission was able to sail through the large patches of open water, sometimes even stretching as far as the horizon. At the North Pole itself, badly melted, eroded, thin, and brittle ice was found.

On the way to ice-free summers:

The mission leader, Markus Rex informed that if the warming trend continues then there will be an ice-free Arctic in summers in just a few decades.

The observations made by the researchers have also been backed by the US satellite images which show that in 2020, sea-ice in the Arctic has reached its second-lowest summer minimum on record, after the year 2012.

How the mission on the North Pole was commenced?

During the expedition to the North Pole, the rotating crew of 300 researchers spent time onboard the German Ship. The ship traveled with the ice along with a wind-driven route.

The researcher at the University of Colorado, Radiance Calmer who was onboard the Polarstern from June to September shared that stepping out onto the ice was a magical moment and if you focus, you can actually feel the ice moving.

The voyage was also a huge logistical challenge especially when it came to feeding the crew. During the first three months, the ship’s cargo included 2000 litres of milk, 14,000 eggs, and 200 kg of rutabaga.

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