Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

The Polarstern sets off on a unique expedition frozen to an ice floe

The ice floe that the German research boat will be attached to as it drifts around the Arctic for almost a year on the most important Arctic expedition ever has been selected.

In a race against time, researchers found the approximately 2.5 by 3.5 kilometre, slightly egg-shaped ice floe that seems suitable for the mission on 4 October, before the onset of the polar night – the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven has announced.

The researchers evaluated
satellite images of 16 ice floes and
then selected the one that their boat
will be frozen to as winter sets in, and with which it will float in the Arctic
for a year, with the assistance of a Russian icebreaker and
several helicopters.

After the hot summer, finding an ice floe of suitable size and stability in the region north of Russia, some 550 kilometres from the North Pole, where the research boat is currently located, was not a simple task.

The first group of scientists test the ice Photo: awi.de

The Polarstern began its journey on 20 September from the Norwegian port of Tromsø. Some members of the expedition have been exploring the ice floe selected on foot since 28 September. They found an unusually stable area in the northern section of the floe where the ice is over several metres thick. They have dubbed this area the Fortress, and they will build a research camp there where 300 scientists from 17 countries will take turns to participate in the expedition costing 140 million euros.

Attached to the floating ice floe, the Polarstern research boat can reach the interior of the polar region that even icebreakers couldn’t gain access to through the thick winter ice.

The researchers will primarily study climate change: their objective is to improve our understanding of the impact of the Arctic region on global climate as it is transformed by climate change. The boat will remain afloat until June 2020, when melting will begin, and the Polarstern will be freed from its icy captivity somewhere between Greenland and Svalbard. Evaluation of the data collected will begin after that.

The Polarstern research boat (on the left) Photo: awi.de

Source: MTI – Hungarian News Agency

Further information: AWI

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