This is an article on Mosaic, a yearlong mission starting in September 2019 described as the largest-scale Arctic research expedition of all time: In September 2019, the German research icebreaker Polarstern departed from Tromsø (Norway) and, once it had reached its destination, will spend the next year drifting through the Arctic Ocean, trapped in the ice. A total of 600 people, who will be supplied by other icebreakers and aircraft, will participate in the expedition – and several times that number of researchers will subsequently use the data gathered to take climate and ecosystem research to the next level. More than 70 research institutions from 20 countries are involved in the expedition. The mission is spearheaded by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).
I thought it would be interesting to WUWT readers on two levels, one as an active, thought out scientific set of experiments of interest to most readers and the other as an example of what happens when motivation overcomes commonsense.
From the expedition website.
Mission- MOSAiC aims at a breakthrough in understanding the Arctic climate system and in its representation in global climate models. MOSAiC will provide a more robust scientific basis for policy decisions on climate change mitigation and adaptation and for setting up a framework for managing Arctic development sustainably. The Arctic is the key area of global climate change, with warming rates exceeding twice the global average and warming during winter even larger.
The backbone of MOSAiC is the year-round operation of RV Polarstern, drifting with the sea ice across the central Arctic during the years 2019 to 2020. During the set-up phase, RV Polarstern entered the Siberian sector of the Arctic in the thin sea ice conditions of late summer.
A distributed regional network of observational sites has been set up on the sea ice in an area of up to ~40 km distance from RV Polarstern. The ship and the surrounding network are now drifting with the natural ice drift across the polar cap towards the Atlantic, while the sea ice thickens during winter (red dotted line in Figure 1).Large scale research facilities addressing key aspects of the coupled Arctic climate system have been set up on board of RV Polarstern and on the sea ice next to it, in the so-called ice camp.The distributed regional network further around the central observatory is comprised of autonomous and remotely-operated sensors, characterizing the heterogeneity of key processes in an area representing a typical grid box of modern climate models and providing invaluable data for the development of parametrizations for sub-grid-scale processes in climate models.
It all started off promisingly. Mooring a purpose designed vessel to an Ice Floe large enough to deploy instruments and a base camp on and sit in the dark for 6 months while winter came and went.
A fully equipped bar, 200 plus elite scientists swapping every 2-3 months, Movies and icecapades.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, everything. Too much Arctic ice for starters. Polar bears, Arctic foxes. Keeping people restricted to the ship early on in the middle of nowhere. [hint, I hope Susanne Croxford checks this out].
Intrepid explorers falling into the frozen waters as leads developed and getting frost bite. Leads opening up and stretching and breaking so that distant sites lost communications. Hurricanes and a severe build up of ice and overlapping ice ledges.
Communication problems , equipment problems and broken equipment.
Poorly designed recording systems for the radar . The ship has to run on diesel engines and keep enough lights on to help detect the bears. The lights and heating and bar chew up a lot of diesel each day, prevent the nocturnal instruments from working close to the ship and cover the surrounding ice with a layer of ash and soot that prevents the ice from freezing as it should.
Instruments have frozen over and stopped working. Buoys have stopped working.
A supply vessel ,the Kapitan Dranitsin was supposed to resupply 3 weeks ago but the current rapid build up of Arctic ice [10th lowest] has caused it to run low on fuel and be 3 weeks late. It might need a relief icebreaker for the icebreaker to bring it enough fuel to get back.
Update “Yesterday morning we had flight weather conditions and took the
chance to fly over to Kapitan Dranitsyn as she was less than 50
miles away. Our helicopter picked up the chief scientist of leg 3
Torsten Kanzow and nautical officer Igor Hering. They are replacing
our leg 2 co-chief scientist Benjamin Rabe and nautical officer Lutz
Peine now. Unfortunately, visibility decreased after that flight and
we had to cancel the exchange of additional people to allow them
to prepare their measurements. But in the meantime, Kapitan
Dranitsyn makes good progress towards the Polarstern and was
only twelve miles away this morning. We hope that they will arrive
at their designated mooring position one kilometer east of the
Polarstern by tomorrow and allow us to start the cargo operations
I wrote an acerbic description due to past episodes of scientists miscalculating the amount of variability in Arctic and Antarctic ice,. Hubris has certainly struck.
I admire the dedication of the scientists but it seems like many of them in planning this expedition forgot to look away from their computer screens and out of the window at the real world.
Sea Ice extent has been very variable but hit a new high for this year at 14.3 million Sq Km. Much more than initially expected. It may well drop off again as it has done twice recently. Wait and don’t comment is good advice.