It is the largest exploration expedition to the Arctic of all time: trapped in ice, the German research vessel Polarstern drifts for a year through the Arctic Ocean.
As a result, the more than 600 participating scientists from 19 countries can gather important measurement data for the first time throughout the year, including during the Arctic winter. They expect this fundamental knowledge for the understanding of climate change. The mission is led by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).
125 years ago, Fridtjof Nansen set out on his sailing ship Fram for the first drift expedition of its kind. But an expedition like the one planned now has never happened before: The MOSAiC project brings a modern research icebreaker loaded with scientific instruments near the North Pole for the first time in winter. In addition to Polarstern, other icebreakers are being used to assist in a sophisticated choreography, so that there is always a supply of fuel and food at the right time. For the crew exchange, supply flights and research aircraft, a runway will be set up. In addition, a whole network of stations on the ice will be built around the ship. Here, several research teams set up measuring points to explore the ocean, ice and atmosphere as well as the arctic life in winter. Helicopters, tracked vehicles and snowmobiles are used.
For this purpose, the Alfred Wegener Institute works together with more than 70 other institutions from 19 countries. But the number of people who ride, blows up all previous dimensions.
This elaborate polar mission is necessary because scientists worldwide lack important data to better assess the future of the climate and climate change. The Arctic, the ice cover of the Arctic, the temperatures and currents in the far north have a huge impact on the climate and weather in the temperate latitudes and ultimately in the whole northern hemisphere. Only by truly understanding what is happening in the Arctic will one be able to gauge how the climate will evolve in the future. The problem: Although icebreakers regularly break into the Arctic to collect measurement data. But these expeditions are limited to the summer months, when the sea ice is so thin that the ships can break through. In the icy and dark polar winter, however, the ice is so thick that no research vessel can penetrate into the central Arctic. The scientific community therefore lacks crucial data from the winter half-year – and thus one understands the processes in the Arctic until today only partially. The MOSAiC project will close this gap by exploring the Arctic for a full year without interruption. Which route Polarstern takes is determined by nature alone.
More information: mosaic-expedition.org
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