The next milestone in Russian-German Arctic research
With the return of the Russian research icebreaker “Akademik Treshnikov” to the port of Murmansk, Russia, another successful chapter in Russian-German collaborative Arctic research drew to a close. On 20 March 2019 the ship embarked on the Russian expedition TRANSARCTIC 2019 in the Barents Sea and returned on 20 May 2019, with seven researchers from German partner institutions (AWI, GEOMAR, University of Bremen and University of Kiel) on board.
The joint fieldwork conducted during the two-month expedition chiefly focused on investigating the interplay between the ocean, ice and atmosphere in light of climate changes in the Arctic. It also continued a long tradition of Russian-German collaboration in the Arctic, which will soon reach a new zenith: the international drift experiment MOSAiC, which will be spearheaded by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), and in which Russia will play a pivotal role.
The Arctic is transforming, which will have impacts that reach far beyond the Arctic itself. Russia and Germany have been partners in pursuing scientific research in the Arctic for decades. The recently completed first phase of the Russian expedition TRANSARCTIC 2019, which AWI experts also participated in, represents a further milestone in their collaboration.
Two months long, the Russian research icebreaker “Akademik Treshnikov” provided the researchers with a valuable platform for studying the ocean, ice and atmosphere, as well as their interconnections, in the Barents Sea. During the expedition, which was organised by the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St Petersburg, seven experts from German research institutes worked hand in hand with their Russian colleagues to explore the composition of the atmosphere and seawater, as well as the characteristics of the sea ice. The work was done not only on board the ship, but also in a camp set up on the sea ice in the immediate vicinity of the “Akademik Treshnikov”, which intentionally allowed itself to become trapped in the ice and subsequently drifted for 38 days, to the northwest of the archipelago Franz Joseph Land.
Conducting research in drifting sea-ice camps is something that Russia has been doing for decades. However, due to climate change, the Arctic sea ice is no longer sufficiently reliable for this type of drift station. At the same time, gathering field data in the Central Arctic, and not just in the summer months, has become more important than ever. This is precisely where the AWI-led international drift expedition MOSAiC – in the course of which the German research icebreaker Polarstern will drift through the Central Arctic, trapped in the ice, for an entire year, from September 2019 – comes into play. Russia will be an essential partner in the project, both in terms of research, and in the form of the logistical support provided by its research and resupply icebreakers. Accordingly, the shared experience gathered during the TRANSARCTIC 2019 expedition is also a valuable preparation for MOSAiC, the greatest Arctic expedition in history.