September 30, 2023

Arctic Expedition: Chasing Ice Melt

They may also provide a convenient source of condensation nuclei for cloud formation, for example when air bubbles are imploded and aerosols are released in the process. So Paul’s team simulates the formation of meltwater pools in the ship’s lab: Stockholmers create artificial bubbles under sterile conditions in a tank filled with fresh ice cores and snow samples. When they explode (“bubble burst”), they analyze the resulting aerosol.

Lina Holthusen from the University of Oldenburg provides Paul’s group with samples of fresh ice and snow for the experiment. The oceanographer also uses a plate of glass that she carefully drags through the water to sample the thin layer on the ocean surface where organic and biological material accumulates (“sea surface microstratum”). This is the important interface between the ocean and the atmosphere, where “bubble bursting” occurs in nature. Paul’s team is therefore interested in the properties of the aerosols emitted from this interface.

Vegan cupcakes in the high arctic

Meanwhile, Lena studies the concentrations and transports of some trace gases in the Arctic. Because the calculations of the exchange of fluxes of these gases between the ocean and the atmosphere are relevant to global climate models, and Lina wants to improve the calculations.

© Paul Zieger, Stockholm University (details)

Meltwater pond simulation | Slushie may look unspectacular, but it is very dynamic on a microscopic level. Melt ponds not only accelerate the melting of snow, but also release aerosols into the air. This affects the formation of fog and clouds.

Lena has already made many trips and expeditions in the Arctic, and here she is gaining more practical experience for the next Antarctic expedition, which will be about her doctoral dissertation. As part of the Early Career Scientist programme, you learn the different measurement methods on board and on the ice on the Odin with which to determine the properties of the water column and different water masses. “In addition, we have the opportunity to sample all areas of the different working groups and also to take samples for our own research,” explains the geologist. On the other hand, sampling on cold, windy days is annoying, when she can then choose between the challenge of thick gloves and stiff, frozen fingers.

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The daily lives of researchers can differ greatly from one another. There are set times, for example: breakfast from 7.45 am, scholars briefing at 8.15 am, ‘fika’ – Swedish coffee time and Lena’s daily ray of hope – at ten, lunch from twelve, the second fika in the afternoon at three, PI meeting at five, dinner from 5.45pm. But not everyone can keep it all the time. For example, when Falk takes a helicopter ride, he misses a meal or two. This is unfortunate because everyone praises the skills of the four chefs, who, according to Paul, are “the real heroines of this trip”. There was even vegan cakes for Lena and Teresa’s birthdays.

Meals can also be skipped if it catches up with work. For example, Lina monitors acoustic measurement methods every day from 6 pm to midnight and must also be particularly flexible for other measurements: “conductivity temperature depth” measurements determine salt content, temperature, oxygen content with a special device lowered into a cable and other parameters down to the sea floor. Lena and two other experts are constantly on standby for this service, day and night, whenever snow and weather conditions permit. Thanks to the midnight sun, it’s always mild.

The ice is finally melting!

Then it finally happens: warm air is here! The expected weather mass for weeks finally arrived on Saturday at 6 a.m. With it comes the fog. For safety reasons, Teresa can’t walk on the snow, but she’s happy with the measurements on the front pole. Falk was less enthusiastic, because the helicopter is only allowed to fly when visibility is perfect and so his helipad flight is cancelled. Paul’s team, on the other hand, is elated, the “cloud broom” finally has something to measure – the device is constantly sucking in fog droplets in order to analyze their size, origin and chemical composition.

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Now all teams measure what the instruments give out, every three hours a weather balloon goes up. After a day, the fog clears—and within a few hours, puddles are forming all over the ice. “I didn’t think it would happen so quickly,” says Paul, as surprised as he is relieved that they managed to catch their melting moment after all.

© Paul Zieger, Stockholm University (details)

Celebrity visit | Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden and Sweden’s Climate Minister Romina Burmokhtari have the scientific background of the expedition explained to them in the Odin conference room.

Philip is delighted with the mixture of snow, ice and water, which he calls “slush”: “I’ve never seen it before it starts to melt into the layer between the ice and the snow.” The ROV sea ice physicist uses spectrometry to measure the distribution of light under spots where melt ponds have begun to form. Meanwhile, Teresa collects more water samples than usual, and Falk takes footage over the heli base’s icy ponds. The meteorological assessment must now show whether this sudden heat wave is in fact the hoped-for atmospheric flow – or whether a combination of different phenomena caused the melting of ice.

On June 16, Odin returned to Longyearbyen with a lot of valuable data. Shortly thereafter comes the surprise royal visit: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden has come with Sweden’s climate minister to inform her of the results and impressions of the ARTofMELT trip. Then the chefs go to the top of their game again, and on special occasions even prized original Odin crockery is served.

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In the conference room, expedition leader Michael Tjernström explained to the Crown Princess that the clouds are more important than the sun: most of the radiation would be reflected back without them, but the clouds retain the heat radiating from the ground like a blanket thrown on the floor. summit. Paul Zeiger shows her the cloud vacuum cleaner and talks to her about the crowds of tourists in the capital of Svalbard, which shows him how fragile nature is in the Arctic and how unbalanced people are in this system. The Crown Princess takes notes on the offers made to her. The coming months and years will show what the large amount of measurement data means and how the knowledge gained is changing the latest climate predictions. Paul hopes it’s not too late – for the ice, the North Pole and the world.