AS the world calls for global action against climate change at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit, current predictions around the decline of Arctic sea ice could be far worse than many believe. A Huddersfield geophysicist will join the first-ever, year-round expedition to the Arctic to bring clarity to the full effects.
Huddersfield/UK — Dr Phil Hwang is a Geophysicist and a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Huddersfield. He will join a multi-national research team into the central Arctic Ocean to undertake new studies into the Arctic climate system during the depth of the polar night.
The polar night occurs in the northernmost and southernmost regions of the Earth when the night lasts for more than 24 hours and the length of the darkness can vary from 20 hours at the Arctic Circle to 179 days at the North Pole. Dr Hwang’s research is to understand the dynamics of Arctic sea ice and its effect on sea ice breakup/melting in summer. He explains how the current climate model, used to predict changes in our climate, uses equations calculated from when Arctic sea ice was thicker and slower-moving. According to the scientist, a critical new dataset gathered from present-day Arctic sea ice is imperative to receive a more accurate and realistic forecast on the future of the climate.
His approach, when he joins the expedition for two months next summer, will use a combination of sea ice buoys, helicopter survey and satellite remote sensing. This way, the researchers will be able to observe the full evolution of sea ice floe dynamics, fragmentation and lateral melt.
After more than five years of planning, the Multi-Disciplinary drifting Observatory for the study of Arctic Climate (Mosaic) programme, led by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, will see the research icebreaker RV Polarstern frozen into the Arctic sea ice and then drift across the top of the Arctic Ocean.
The icebreaker officially set sail from Norway last month and over the next twelve months’ hundreds of scientists from 19 countries will join the expedition at different intervals throughout RV Polarstern’s journey.
Over the course of the year, the scientists will conduct a range of marine, atmospheric, biological and sea ice-related research from the floating platform, the field camps and the advanced remote and autonomous vehicles. It is expected the vessel will complete its drift by October 2020.