published on 19 October 2020 in water

After 13 months drifting through Arctic ice, Polarstern has returned to harbour

The largest-scale expedition ever conducted in the Arctic Circle has returned after 13 months of work. After departing on 20 September 2019 from the port of the Norwegian city of Tromsø, Polarstern, the laboratory vessel of the MOSAiC Expedition (Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) docked on 12 October in the port of Bremerhaven, Germany, bringing with it an immense amount of work, experiments and data collection. Thanks to the tools used on the ship, scientists were able to collect over 150 terabytes of data, as well as numerous ice and water samples: it is estimated that it will take one to two years to analyse all the collected data. At the end of the analysis, the aim is to obtain models that can more accurately predict the evolution of the climate in order to determine what lies ahead in 50 or 100 years.

The Polarstern laboratory ship. Credits: mosaic-expedition.org

The aim of the expedition was to collect samples and to study the Arctic environment and climate and its changes. During these 13 months spent crossing the Arctic waters, scientists could directly observe the dramatic effects of climate change. “We watched the polar cap die,” commented mission leader and climatologist Markus Rex, who believes that if we continue on this course, within a few decades we will observe a completely ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer. The floating ice currently extends over an area of just under 3.74 million square kilometres: the only time the level has dropped this low (since the existence of satellite recording) was in 2012, when the sea ice was reduced to 3.41 million square kilometres.

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