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More to Uncover in Arctic Sea

Scientists publish first interim results of MOSAiC Arctic Expedition

It has been more than a year since the German research icebreaker Polarstern returned with the MOSAiC scientific crew aboard, and along with them an unprecedented amount of data. First results of their observations are now being shared.

MOSAiC researchers have recently released the first part of findings in three scientific articles in the scientific journal, Elementa. These publications provide an early look at what the scientists saw firsthand, including dynamic physical and atmospheric changes charted over longer periods of time. Coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, the researchers focused their tests and readings on the arctic snow, sea ice, physical oceanography, its ecosystem, and atmosphere. During their 12-month expedition, researchers have gathered the most complete empirical dataset on the climate system in the Arctic, where the surface temperature of the air is astonishingly rising twice as fast when compared to the rest of the planet. With their ongoing research and by analyzing the collected data, the MOSAiC scientists hope to find answers as to why this is so and to understand better how the arctic climate system functions.

Wind and sea ice: critical factors to the condition of the arctic climate system

One of the most striking observations the researchers made during their voyage through the Arctic Ocean was that the ice drift was much faster than originally expected. After evaluating the available data, the researchers have now been able to provide an initial explanation: they observed that low temperatures at ground level bring about strong and steady winds above the surface. Combined with other atmospheric deviations, these factors force the sea ice to move rapidly. The research groups also examined in detail, how changes in the atmosphere and sea ice are related to water temperature and salt concentration and how this influences the local climate.

Historic mission provides vast knowledge base for future studies

The magnitude of information collected promises to lead to innumerable future studies and conclusions. For example, future satellite missions might explore the way the wind affects snow drifts, how it pushes ice within the region, as well as the significance of snow in sub-zero environments. The collected data points to how snow is critical to the livelihood of North Pole as it reflects sunlight, stores fresh water, and insulates the sea itself. “The physical observations are the basis for interpreting biogeochemical cycles and ecosystem processes, and for supporting coupled models that we use to learn even more about climate feedbacks and the global repercussions of Arctic change. These changes can affect weather and climate worldwide,” proclaims Prof. Markus Rex, head of MOSAiC and atmospheric scientist at the AWI.

About MOSAiC

The MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) expedition was a year-long data collection study through the Central Arctic Sea. It is the first and most comprehensive research mission of its kind to study the Arctic Ocean. MOSAiC brought together an international, multidisciplinary team of scientific experts from more than twenty nations on board the German research icebreaker Polarstern in September 2019 and October 2020.



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