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New AWI Study on Legacy Industrial Contamination in the Arctic Permafrost

When permafrost thaws, the Arctic could face massive problems from legacy industrial contamination and pollutants

[Translate to English:] Pipeline in Alaska
[04. April 2023]  A previously underestimated risk lurks in the frozen soil of the Arctic. When the ground thaws and becomes unstable in response to climate change, it can lead to the collapse of industrial infrastructure, and in turn to the increased release of pollutants. Moreover, contaminations already present will be able to more easily spread throughout ecosystems. there are at least 13,000 to 20,000 contaminated sites in the Arctic that could pose a serious risk in the future, AWI researchers now published in the journal Nature Communications.

Less Sea Ice, More Herring

Ancient DNA from the ocean floor reveals how climate change could fundamentally transform marine ecosystems in the Arctic

Storm in the Bering Sea
[27. March 2023]  Every year, the waters of the polar regions are still covered by sheets of ice for weeks or months on end. But this sea ice is increasingly disappearing due to climate change. A glimpse into our planet’s past now reveals the dramatic effects this can have for regional ecosystems: during the seasonal transition from ice-covered to ice-free conditions, the entire biotic community can change. This was the main conclusion arrived at by a team from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam, based on an analysis of ancient DNA from the ocean floor. These changes can also have consequences for fishing and the global climate, the experts warn in the journal Nature Communications.

How eddies affect our climate

New EU project to use supercomputers for improved Earth system simulations

Global map of eddies
[27. February 2023]  The ocean has a large effect on our planet’s climate. In this regard, medium-sized – eddies, which constitute essentially the weather on the ocean, could be far more important than previously believed. Accordingly, a new project, led by the Alfred Wegener Institute has just been launched in order to more precisely assess this aspect: by doing so, “European Eddy Rich Earth System Models” (EERIE) could significantly improve today’s Earth system models and therefore projections of the climate’s future development.

Record low sea ice cover in the Antarctic

Sea ice extent in the Southern Ocean now the lowest since the beginning of satellite observation forty years ago

[Translate to English:] Polarstern im Bellingshausenmeer
[10. February 2023]  There is currently less sea ice in the Antarctic than at any time in the forty years since the beginning of satellite observation: in early February 2023, only 2.20 million square kilometres of the Southern Ocean were covered with sea ice. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute and the University of Bremen analyse the situation for the Sea Ice Portal. January 2023 had already set a new record for its monthly mean extent (3.22 million square kilometres), even though the melting phase in the Southern Hemisphere continues until the end of February. The current expedition team on board RV Polarstern has just reported virtually ice-free conditions in its current research area, the Bellingshausen Sea.

Debris in the Arctic

Plastic debris in the Arctic comes from all around the world – including Germany

AWI researchers have analysed the origins of plastic debris on the shores of Svalbard.

Picture of Plastic debris washed ashore in the Arctic
[07. February 2023]  “Citizen Science” gives interested citizens the chance to actively engage in scientific research. A citizen-science project conducted by AWI in the Arctic now shows just how successful this can be. In the course of five years, citizens who went on sailing cruises to the Arctic surveyed and collected plastic debris that had washed up on the shores of Svalbard. This has now been analysed by the AWI.