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Beavers are changing the face of the Arctic

The large rodents are penetrating deeper and deeper into the Alaskan tundra – with far-reaching consequences for local ecosystems

[16. July 2018] 

Beavers are highly effective ecosystem engineers: if a given landscape isn’t quite to their liking, they simply rearrange the terrain. And that’s what they’ve been doing for millennia in the temperate latitudes. But now they’re expanding their territory, and can increasingly be found in the North American Arctic. A German-American research team recently investigated the ramifications of this development. According to their findings, the animals could change entire ecosystems and contribute to the thawing of permafrost soils, as they report in the journal Global Change Biology.

Ocean currents

Melting triggers melting

Scientists show how warm ocean water melted glaciers during the last glacial period - a potential template for processes affecting the modern Antarctic ice sheet

[11. July 2018] 

The melting of glaciers on one side of the globe can trigger disintegration of glaciers on the other side of the globe, as has been presented in a recent paper by a team of AWI scientists, who investigated marine microalgae preserved in glacial deposits and subsequently used their findings to perform climate simulations. The study highlights a process with alerting consequences for modern ice sheets: continuous warming of the ocean can result in a massive loss of polar ice mass, and consequently to rapid sea level rise.

Arctic Expedition

Research icebreaker Polarstern departs for the Fram Strait

Researchers will investigate various oceanographic and biological aspects between the waters of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans

[06. July 2018] 

On Tuesday, 10 July 2018 the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport in Bremerhaven, headed for the Arctic. The main focus of the journey will be on long-term oceanographic measurements and biological research in the water column and on the seafloor of the Fram Strait between Greenland and Svalbard.

MOSAiC Expedition

An entire year trapped in the Arctic ice

The international MOSAiC expedition with the German research icebreaker Polarstern will launch in autumn 2019

[27. June 2018] 

It could be the largest-scale Arctic research expedition of all time: in September 2019 the German research icebreaker Polarstern will depart from Tromsø, Norway and, once it has reached its destination, will spend the next year drifting through the Arctic Ocean, trapped in the ice. A total of 600 people from 17 countries will participate in the expedition.

The Antarctic

Why the tongue of the Pine Island Glacier suddenly shrank

Researchers map the seafloor near the Pine Island Glacier and use time-lapse video to unravel the mystery of its abrupt retreat

[15. June 2018] 

The Pine Island Glacier in Western Antarctica is not only one of the fastest-flowing ice streams in the Southern Hemisphere; over the past eleven years, four major icebergs have calved from its floating tongue. In February 2017, researchers on board the German research icebreaker Polarstern successfully mapped an area of seafloor previously covered by shelf ice. A comparison of these new maps with satellite images of the ice stream reveals why the glacier suddenly retreated toward the coast: at important points, it had lost contact with the ground, as the experts report in the online journal The Cryosphere, a journal of the European Geosciences Union.