Tag Archives: ice

Arctic Research aboard the RV Polarstern

UTQIAGVIK, Alaska


Recent paths of Arctic ice floes; Source credit: Thomas Krumpen, Alfred Wegener Institute; Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen

Researchers from around the globe have congregated on Alaska’s Arctic coast. They are planning a once in a generation expedition into the heart of one of the harshest environments on Earth: The Arctic.

It’s a 12 month, 17 nation, 300 scientist effort aboard the German ice breaker Polarstern, to document climate change in the Arctic. This coming autumn, the Polarstern will be positioned in a remote part of the Siberian Arctic, and then wait to be frozen in the ice. The research vessel will then flow with the floe; traveling with the ice as it moves across the Arctic Ocean.

Only twice has a transpolar drift happened successfully in history. Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen did it first in 1893. Ten years ago, a small sailing ship named the Tara also completed a transpolar drift without the sea ice crushing its hull.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Science Foundation and universities from Alaska-Fairbanks to Oregon State to Dartmouth are involved. Most northern nations are playing a role, as well. Russia, China and Sweden have all committed ships and aircraft for resupply support. Japan and Switzerland have developed new research equipment especially for the expedition.

Unlike Antarctica, there is no land at the north pole to build a permanent research station. The RV Polarstern is the next best thing. At any one time, 60 people will be living and working on the ice breaker. Resupply will take place every 60 days, weather permitting. Researchers will also be swapped out during resupply runs.


Graph credit: National Snow & Ice Data Center

Time is running short for a expedition like this one. The key is to find old sea ice, 4-5 years old, and get locked into that. Since 1980, 95% of Arctic sea ice that is 4+ years old, has been lost. In the graph above, the lightest yellow is 1 year old ice, the dark purple 5+ years old.

It should be an interesting study, although researchers on board the ice breaker from December to February will not see the sun. They should see polar bears, however.

#MOSAiC


Breaking Up

The picture was taken the last day of March. I have never seen The Pond with as much bad ice this early. The open hole is from methane release, which caused the ice to thin just above the methane pocket.

The Nenana River has some open water already, downstream from the Ice Classic Tripod. The earliest the Tanana River has gone out is April 20. Short of an epic cold snap, that record will be broken in 2019.


“The Cutest Dragon”

World Ice Art Championships 2019:

This carving won first place in the two-person carving competition. The artists, Junichi Nakamura & Hiroaki Kimura are from Japan.

I must admit, it is the cutest dragon I’ve seen in Fairbanks.


The Dragon at night


“Jenny 1”

World Ice Art Championships 2019:


The Jenny 1

Another multi-block contestant. This carving is modeled after Ben Eielson’s Curtiss JN-4D, which now hangs from the ceiling of the Fairbanks International Airport.


Jenny 1 Night Flight


“Valhalla”

World Ice Art Championships 2019:

One of the multi-block entrants, entitled “Valhalla”.


Shameless Fairbanks Promo:

An introduction to Fairbanks and Interior Alaska:

There is no place quite like it.


Ice Alaska

The World Ice Art Championships has returned to Fairbanks. The Ice Park opened on Valentines Day. I checked it out the other day, but the vast majority of the sites had blocks like the one pictured above. No carvers were working when I stopped by.

Fairbanks is known for its crystal clear ice, which the carvers love to use. There will be single block, double block and multi-block carving contests. Plus, there are single carver and two person carver events. I’ll stop by a few more times after the carving is done, and everything on display.

The “luge” track, set up for the kids, looked particularly fast.


An ice outhouse: as long as there is a styrofoam seat…

The Ice Park is located at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds, and is open 10am to 10pm, until nature melts the carvings.