Scientists return with urgently needed climate
data from world’s largest Arctic research expedition

After a year at sea, the research ship Polarstern has now returned to its homeport in Bremerhaven, Germany. The ship and its crew of multinational scientists spent the last year drifting through the Arctic Sea to collect vital data on the climate system in the cryosphere in what is said to be the largest polar expedition of all time. It will majorly influence the work of scientists around the world for years to come. The crew also witnessed the impact of climate change first-hand.

Back in September 2019, the Polarstern left Tromsø in Norway to become frozen in an ice floe just north of Siberia. Driven then by nothing but the wind and ocean currents, the ship spent the following 12 months drifting naturally with the ice across the North Pole. Researchers from the Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, more commonly known as MOSAiC, gathered data during this time to explore the complex interplay between the climate system and the ocean, ice and atmosphere.

Hundreds of scientists from various reaches of the world worked together against storms, extreme cold and the coronavirus to gather data.

“Through the expedition, we can provide the climate data and observations that humanity so urgently needs in order to make fundamental and pressing political decisions on climate protection.”

Markus Rex – expedition leader

Photos – Copyright: Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Thomas Ronge CC-BY 4.0

The data that the Polarstern brings back from the Arctic will majorly influence the work of scientists around the world for years to come. Whilst the expedition was successful in collecting this vital data, it also brought with it the sobering reality of the fast-changing conditions in the Arctic, which the members of the expedition witnessed first-hand.

“The ice is only half as thick as it was 40 years ago, and the winter temperatures we encountered were nearly always ten degrees warmer than what Fridtjof Nansen experienced on his ground-breaking Arctic expedition over 125 years ago.” The scientist is convinced: “We have seen how the Artic is dying.”

Markus Rex – expedition leader

During the Polarstern’s journey home in September this year, Arctic sea ice cover reached its second lowest in recorded history. It is hoped that the data collected on this expedition will help us understand how and why the Arctic is changing so quickly.