October 1, 2017 marks the ten-year anniversary since the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) research aircraft Polar 5 began service. In that time, the Basler BT-67 has flown more than 1.3 million kilometres to fulfil essential scientific and logistical duties. In the course of 48 measuring campaigns, predominantly for atmospheric research and geophysics purposes, the airplane has landed on the Arctic sea ice near the North Pole, and at the South Pole.
This September, the extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to roughly 4.7 million square kilometres, as was determined by researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute, the University of Bremen and Universität Hamburg. Though slightly larger than last year, the minimum sea ice extent 2017 is average for the past ten years and far below the numbers from 1979 to 2006. The Northeast Passage was traversable for ships without the need for icebreakers.
On October 1 - 4, more than 90 representatives from the Arctic and Antarctic expedition cruise industry will gather in Iceland for the second AECO/IAATO Polar Field Staff Conference. The topic of the conference is evolution and new challenges in the polar tourism industry.
The most advanced space weather radar in the world is to be built in the Arctic by an international partnership including the UK, thanks to new investment, including in the region of £4 to £6m from NERC. The EISCAT_3D radar will provide UK scientists with a cutting-edge tool to probe the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space, helping them understand the effects of space weather storms on technology, society and the environment.
The Norwegian Polar Institute counted 1374 Svalbard reindeer in the Adventdalen around Longyearbyen this year. Many calves were observed and only a few dead reindeer found. This is a trend that has been observed for years: The reindeer population has been growing slightly in this region for years.
During the last glacial period, within only a few decades the influence of atmospheric CO2 on the North Atlantic circulation resulted in temperature increases of up to 10 degrees Celsius in Greenland – as indicated by new climate calculations from researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute and the University of Cardiff.
Genetic clocks in zooplankton species regulate what is likely the largest daily movement of biomass worldwide. The copepod species Calanus finmarchicus schedules its day using a genetic clock that works independently of external stimuli. The clock shapes the copepod’s metabolic rhythms and daily vertical migration. This in turn have an enormous influence on the entire food web in the North Atlantic, where Calanus finmarchicus is a central plankton species. Wherever the high-calorie copepod is, determines where its predator species are. The results of the study will be published in the journal Current Biology.
According to researchers at Aalto University, by using suitable systems, more than 80% of heating energy for Finnish households could be produced using solar energy. As the price of heating energy obtained from solar heating systems needed to be competitive with the currently used heating alternatives, calculations made by researchers showed that renewable energy could be used to cover 53-81% of annual domestic heating energy consumption depending on the technical implementation method.
One of the best-known impacts of climate change is the loss of sea ice in the Arctic, but also in parts of the Antarctic: the poles are increasingly turning from white to blue. However, in the shallow seas near continental landmasses, the colour green also enters the picture: with the ocean ice-free for longer periods, the growing period for algal blooms also grows longer. These algae, in turn, provide food for seafloor-dwelling organisms, who use the carbon from their food to grow their bodies and shells.
Since 2004, tsunamis have received a much bigger attention after several of these big waves had hit coastal areas in Asia killing more than 200‘000 people. However, these waves are not bound to the tropical or subtropical areas. On Saturday, June 17th, waves had struck the western coast of Greenland, causing havoc and destruction and presumably leaving four people dead.