VIDEO: Icebreaker Polarstern begins year-long Arctic drift

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Polarstern arrives at the flow where MOSAiC team is setting up camp

Scientists from an expedition led by Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute are currently setting up camp on an ice floe, located at 85°N, 135° E, on which they plan to make a year long drift through the Arctic Ocean. Making the drift with the floe will be the German icebreaker Polar Stern.

The expedition is called MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) and is the largest polar expedition in history, An international fleet of four icebreakers, along with helicopters and aircraft will supply the team on its epic voyage. A total of 600 international participants, half of whom are researchers, will be part of the mission.

“During the expedition, Polarstern will be become frozen in the ice, and will provide safe accommodations while research is undertaken outside on the sea ice under extreme conditions,” says Antje Boetius, Director, Alfred Wegener Institute. “We have a network of the best international Arctic researchers from various disciplines to get the mission off the ground.”

“This mission is ground breaking,” says Markus Rex, Head of MOSAiC, Alfred Wegener Institute. “Never before has there been such a complex Arctic expedition. For the first time we will be able to measure the climate processes in the Central Arctic in winter. And so for the first time we will be able to understand this region and correctly represent it in climate models. The Arctic is the epicenter of global warming and has already undergone dramatic changes. And it is the weather kitchen for our weather in Europe. Extreme weather conditions like outbreaks of cold Arctic air here in winter, or heat waves in summer are linked to the changes in the Arctic. At the same time, the uncertainties in our climate models are nowhere bigger than in the Arctic. There aren’t any reliable prognoses of how the Arctic climate will develop further or what that will mean for our weather. Our mission is to change that.”

MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate

“RV Polarstern is about 40 years old, and it is an excellent icebreaker – and one of the best vessels to sail the seas,” says Stefan Schwarze, Captain of the Polarstern, which is operated by the F. Laeisz Shipping Group. “It is often the case that good icebreakers are bad sea-going vessels. But this is not true at all for Polarstern, making her genuinely unique in this respect. Polarstern is central to MOSAiC – the hub everything revolves around, and everyone returns to. If something goes wrong, Polarstern always remains solid as a rock. If everything goes wrong, Polarstern needs to remain our last stronghold – and I will make sure of that. That’s my task.”

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