Ex­perts bring trove of cli­mate data

Arab Times - - SCIENCE -

BER­LIN, Oct 12, (AP): An ice­breaker car­ry­ing sci­en­tists on a year-long in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to study the high Arc­tic has re­turned to its home port in Ger­many car­ry­ing a wealth of data that will help re­searchers bet­ter pre­dict cli­mate change in the decades to come.

The RV Po­larstern ar­rived Mon­day in the North Sea port of Bre­mer­haven, from where she set off more than a year ago pre­pared for bit­ter cold and po­lar bear en­coun­ters – but not for the pan­demic lockdowns that al­most scut­tled the mis­sion half-way through.

“We ba­si­cally achieved ev­ery­thing we set out to do,” the ex­pe­di­tion’s leader, Markus Rex, told The As­so­ci­ated Press by satel­lite phone as it left the po­lar cir­cle last week. “We con­ducted mea­sure­ments for a whole year with just a short break.”

The ship had to break away from its po­si­tion in the far north for three weeks in May to pick up sup­plies and ro­tate team mem­bers af­ter coro­n­avirus re­stric­tions dis­rupted care­fully laid travel plans, but that didn’t cause sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems to the mis­sion, he said.

Sam­ples

“We’re bring­ing back a trove of data, along with count­less sam­ples of ice cores, snow and wa­ter,” said Rex, an at­mo­spheric sci­en­tist at Ger­many’s Al­fred We­gener In­sti­tute for Po­lar and Ocean Re­search that or­ga­nized the ex­pe­di­tion.

More than 300 sci­en­tists from 20 coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, Bri­tain, France, Rus­sia and China took part in the 150-mil­lion-euro ($177-mil­lion) ex­pe­di­tion to mea­sure con­di­tions in one of the most re­mote and hos­tile parts of the planet over the course of a whole year.

Much of the in­for­ma­tion will be used to im­prove sci­en­tists’ mod­els of global warm­ing, par­tic­u­larly in the Arc­tic, where change has been hap­pen­ing at a faster pace than else­where on the planet.

As part of the ex­pe­di­tion, known by

its acro­nym MO­SAiC, the Po­larstern an­chored to a large floe last fall and set up a camp on the ice, cre­at­ing a small sci­en­tific vil­lage pro­tected from wan­der­ing po­lar bears by alarms and scouts.

“We went above and be­yond the data col­lec­tion we set out to do,” said Melinda Web­ster, a sea ice ex­pert at the Uni­ver­sity of Alaska, Fair­banks, whose work is funded by NASA.

Web­ster, who led a team of 14 sci­en­tists dur­ing the fourth leg of the trip, said it will likely take years, or even decades, to sift through the data.

“This is an ex­tremely ex­cit­ing time to get into Arc­tic sci­ence be­cause of the changes that are hap­pen­ing,” she said. “We need to get all the help we

can be­cause it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand what’s go­ing on and the more peo­ple help out, the bet­ter.”

Rex, the ex­pe­di­tion leader, noted that the ship en­coun­tered un­usu­ally thin and mushy con­di­tions in the re­gion above north­ern Green­land this sum­mer that al­lowed them to make an un­planned de­tour to the North Pole.

“We are watch­ing the Arc­tic sea ice die,” said Rex, adding that he thinks it’s pos­si­ble there may be no sum­mer sea ice in the Arc­tic soon. This would cause not just sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tion to indige­nous so­ci­eties in the re­gion but also in­ter­fere with the planet’s cool­ing sys­tem.

“We need to do ev­ery­thing to pre­serve it for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” he said.

In this July 3, 2019 file photo, Markus Rex, an at­mo­spheric sci­en­tist and leader of the MO­SAiC ex­pe­di­tion, stands on the bridge of the Ger­man Arc­tic re­search ves­sel Po­larstern in Bre­mer­haven, Ger­many. The ice­breaker Po­larstern, car­ry­ing sci­en­tists on a year-long in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to study the high Arc­tic, has re­turned to its home port in Ger­many. The RV Po­larstern ar­rived Mon­day in the North Sea port of Bre­mer­haven. (AP)

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