VThe one-year drift of the research icebreaker Polarstern through the Arctic Ocean is seldom mentioned without the addition that this was the greatest Arctic expedition of all time. What is true. But that’s not what makes Mosaic, the name of the expedition, so unique. But that for the first time scientists from a wide variety of disciplines have collected all the data over a whole year that are necessary to understand the climate system of the Arctic – which in turn makes the mechanisms of global warming more comprehensible. Expedition leader and atmospheric physicist Markus Rex and sea ice physicist Stefanie Arndt were – a good year after the end of the expedition – quite right at the “Breaking the Wall” talks. The fight against climate change as a central challenge, the necessary rethinking in society, politics and economy ran through many events at Falling Walls; a young company that develops biodegradable packaging was named “Science Start-up” of the year, and it was discussed how a socio-economic turnaround, a “Green New Deal”, can succeed. The report by the two scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, however, focused attention on the research that makes it possible to understand what consequences human activity has for the planet and why it is so essential to act now.
The expedition tore down a wall in research insofar as the findings about the Arctic climate system have so far been more like snapshots. The journeys to the Arctic Ocean were much shorter, and there were never any in winter when the ice was impenetrable – with one exception: Fridtjof Jansen had the wooden ship Fram freeze in the polar ice in 1893 and moved on with the ice, so he proved that it was Transpolar drift there. “We followed Nansen’s idea,” said Markus Rex, and in his voice one could hear admiration for the bold pioneer of polar research, who had no way of knowing whether he and his companions would survive the adventure.
Like Nansen’s team, the Polarstern research team set off when the Arctic sea ice was still navigable, looking for a suitable floe in the Siberian part of the Arctic on which the ship should freeze. At the beginning of October the captain switched off the engine, a special moment: “From then on we were in the hands of nature,” said Markus Rex. “We didn’t know where we would be the next day.” In the months that followed, the drift carried the Polarstern close to the North Pole, a region that would otherwise have been inaccessible in winter. It was pretty much exactly the route the Fram drifted along. However, it took three years for it, which is also an indication of the climate changes in the Arctic: The ice is now thinner and therefore more dynamic, and the transpolar drift has accelerated.
Snow, water, ice cores
The Antarctic is warming up faster than any other region on earth, it is now three degrees, almost two more than climate change has caused temperatures to rise on the global average so far. “Nevertheless, one can ask why we should be interested in the Arctic far away,” said Stefanie Arndt, and she immediately replied: “What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.” The warming in the region has an impact, in short In other words, the global air circulation and is therefore jointly responsible for extreme weather conditions, such as are increasingly common in Europe, Asia and North America.
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