Arctic melts on

Warm winter leads to a fall in the ice

Research in the Arctic Gerit Birnbaum, Alfred Wegener Institute
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The past, warm winter not only in record temperatures in Central Europe. Also in the Arctic in the region around Spitsbergen the exceptionally mild temperatures caused very little ice. German scientists come to this conclusion after a mapping of the Arctic sea ice with research aircraft in March of this year.

The sea ice in the Arctic plays an important role in climate change. The observed decline in average ice extent in recent years means that less and less solar energy is being reflected by ice into space, causing Arctic temperatures to continue to rise. Usually Spitsbergen is largely surrounded by ice at the end of winter, and the fjords are frozen over.

"This year, the aircraft had to fly to the limits of their range in order to capture sufficient data on the sea ice, " explains Dr. Jörg Hartmann, climatologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute. The recent UN climate report highlights Arctic warming as one of the four key issues of global climate change.

The research aircraft Polar 2, operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute and used to monitor changes in the Arctic, is equipped with various meteorological instruments and camera systems. It flies during a measurement flight at low altitudes, while at the same time, at a distance of three kilometers, a research aircraft of the German Aerospace Center misses the ice on the same measuring route with an imaging radar system. The data obtained in this way should provide the basis for a process in which satellite images are used to obtain ice data.

Preparation of satellite missions

Environmental change studies carried out by the IceSAR project, a campaign in the framework of the International Polar Year. The goal of IceSAR is to make progress in monitoring sea ice using satellite radar and to make better predictions in weather and climate models. The campaign provides data for the technical direction of the ESA satellite Sentinel-1, on which a radar system from 2011 should also observe the Arctic ice areas. display

(idw - Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, 30.03.2007 - AHE)