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.
Despite the warming of the Arctic Ocean, vast areas are still covered with ice and hides an unknown world from scientific research. With the ice retreating, this world can be investigated and previously inaccessible parts of the Arctic open up and maybe reveal new life forms. A French expedition named “Under The Pole III” will try to fill this gap on a three-year expedition around the globe.
On May 24th 2017, 49 atmospheric and cloud researchers, sea-ice physicists, marine biologists and biogeochemists embarked on a joint expedition headed for Svalbard. On board the research vessel Polarstern from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) all of these disciplines are focused on just one question: How is the climate changing the Arctic? At the same time, the AWI research aircraft Polar 5 and Polar 6, launching from Longyearbyen (Svalbard), will engage in atmospheric measurement flights.
The mass loss of the Greenlandic ice sheet accounts for more than a quarter of global sea level rise. Scientists anxiously observe the increasing impact of climate change on the entire ice sheet.
Polar cod fulfil a key role in the Arctic food web, as they are a major source of food for seals, whales and seabirds alike. But the polar cod themselves might soon be the hungry ones. Under the ice of the central Arctic, the juvenile fish are indirectly but heavily dependent on ice algae. As a result, retreating sea ice could have far-reaching impacts on the food web. Though researchers have long since suspected this relation existed, an international team of researchers led by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, have now successfully confirmed it.
Next to warming and acidification, one of the most prominent problems of the oceans is littering. Several hundred thousand tons of litter is drifting in the oceans of the world and levels are rising. The Arctic Ocean is no exception: in just ten years, the concentration of marine litter at a deep-sea station in the Arctic Ocean has risen 20-fold. This was recently reported in a study by researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).
The Arctic sea ice diminishes every year more and more. In 2012, it had reached a sad negative record with its extension of 3.4 million square kilometers. This year, the extension reached its second lowest value with 4.1 million square kilometers which is even less than the previous record in 2007. And according to experts from the Alfred-Wegener-Institute, who had been responsible for the measurements, the trend will continue.
Scientists from the Alfred-Wegener-Institute (AWI) and the University of Hamburg have succeeded in realistically simulating the emergence of large channels in the Artic sea ice in a computer model. Two approaches were decisive for this success: On the one hand, the researchers had increased the spatial resolution of the FESOM AWI sea-ice ocean model. On the other hand, they were able to improve the numerical solution to the equation so that the simulation of the lead formation holds up well when compared to real sea-ice satellite data. They reported this success in a study that appeared online in the professional journal, Geophysical Research Letters.
Permafrost below shallow Arctic lakes is thawing as a result of changing winter climate, new research shows. These rates of warming are similar to those observed in terrestrial permafrost, yet those soils are still well below freezing and thaw is not expected for at least another 70 years. However, a regime shift in lake ice is leading to sub-lake permafrost thaw now.
Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) are setting out with the research vessel Polarstern towards Spitsbergen, to use newly developed equipment in the Arctic Ocean. Autonomous instruments on the seabed, in the water column and in the air will complement the long-term measurements of the deep-sea research group. In this way researchers can analyse the climatic changes in the Arctic and their impact on the fauna in the future with higher temporal and spatial resolution.