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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.
Over the next five years, nine research centres of the Helmholtz Association will collaborate to create a flexible, mobile measuring system for Earth observation: MOSES – Modular Observation Solutions for Earth Systems.
On 27 August 2017, deep-sea researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute recovered the underwater robot Tramper, which had been taking measurements at a depth of 2435 metres for nearly 60 weeks – the first long-term mission involving a crawler under the Arctic sea ice. For the first 24 weeks, the robot took biogeochemical readings at various sites, just as it was intended to. Unfortunately, because of a broken tread, Tramper got stuck in the same place in January, though it continued to record the oxygen content in the sediment.
At 2:10 pm UTC on 22 August 2017, the Polar 6 became the first German research aircraft to fly over the North Pole. The aircraft “departed from (10:11 am UTC) and returned to (5:00 pm UTC) Station North (81.5°N, 16W)”, as Dr Thomas Krumpen reported in an email sent from Greenland. The sea-ice physicist from the Alfred Wegener Institute is heading the current measuring campaign, TIFAX (Thick Ice Feeding Arctic Export), in the course of which the participating researchers will measure sea ice thickness.
Temperatures in the Arctic are currently climbing two to three times faster than the global average. The result – and, thanks to feedback effects, also the cause – is dwindling sea ice. In a study published in the actual volume of Nature Communications, geo- and climate researchers at the Alfred-Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar- and Marine Research (AWI) show that, in the course of our planet’s history, summertime sea ice was to be found in the central Arctic in periods characterised by higher global temperatures – but less...