Polar patterns - The Polar Seas from a Bird's Perspective

Ever-changing and ever new: In the Arctic and Antarctica, frost and the sun, waves, water and the wind create perpetually changing tints and shades, shapes and patterns. In order to capture the beauty of this interplay, one must take-off and take a bird’s eye view on the polar landscapes. A perspective that only polar researchers like AWI sea ice physicists on their routine survey flights above the ice are lucky enough to slip into. On each of those flights, one or two photographic cameras keep record of the landscape at the scientists’ feet. Pointing vertically downwards, the camera is mounted in the hull of the research aircraft or installed in the torpedo shaped body of the EM-bird – a sea ice thickness measurement device that can be dragged by the research aircraft or a helicopter. The past years of research did hence not only result in new scientific knowledge about sea ice, but also in truly fascinating images, picked by AWI sea ice physicist Stefan Hendricks.

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Arctic sea ice once again shows considerable melting

Sea Ice Minimum 2017

Arctic sea ice once again shows considerable melting

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.

Polar 6 is the first German research aircraft to traverse the North Pole

Premiere

Polar 6 is the first German research aircraft to traverse the North Pole

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.

When the sea ice melts, juvenile polar cod may go hungry

The Arctic

When the sea ice melts, juvenile polar cod may go hungry

Polar cod fulfil a key role in the Arctic food web, as they are a major source of food for seals, whales and seabirds alike. But the polar cod themselves might soon be the hungry ones. Under the ice of the central Arctic, the juvenile fish are indirectly but heavily dependent on ice algae. As a result, retreating sea ice could have far-reaching impacts on the food web.

Adventure in the Ice

The MOSAiC Expedition

Adventure in the Ice

Two-and-a-half years from now, the research vessel Polarstern will depart on an adventurous expedition. For an entire year, the ship will drift through the Arctic, stuck in the pack ice. Using this approach, the researchers hope to gain new insights into climate change.

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

Polarstern Expedition

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

Under the ice of the Arctic, unknown habitats conceal an unexpected variety of living beings. On October 23rd, 46 scientists are expected to return to the home port in Bremerhaven from an Arctic expedition with the research vessel Polarstern. Over the past six weeks, they had explored life in ice, ocean and seabed with new robots and camera systems.