UCL Earth Sciences


A Year-Long City on Sea Ice, the Arctic science expedition.

20 September 2019

The MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) : Robbie Mallett and Dr Michel Tsamados are aboard Russian icebreaker on the way to the Arctic to help build a "city on ice" and take part in the 6-week MOSAiC School 2019.

Polarstern - AWI

The Arctic Ocean is complicated, important and undergoing rapid climate change. As the sea ice thins and retreats, sunlight and Arctic winds are warming and stirring the ocean in an unprecedented way. This has serious implications for regional ecosystems, northern hemisphere weather and global climate.

Robbie Mallett, a PhD student researching the physics of snow on sea ice is writing about his participation in this project as he leaves for the Arctic aboard Russian icebreaker "Akademik Federov".  Robbie is a member of the departmental Polar Research Group and UCL Centre for Polar Observation & Modelling and is supervised by  Prof Julienne Stroeve and Dr Michel Tsamados.  Dr Michel Tsamados is also taking part in the expedition as one of the lecturers at the MOSAiC School.  Prof Stroeve will join the Polarstern in mid-winter to carry out experiments to assess the accuracy of the radar satellites that are used to map the thickness of the sea-ice from orbit.

In his blog Robbie writes:

Today I leave for the shrinking ice aboard Russian icebreaker Akademik Federov to help build a “city on ice”. The formal name for the city is the Multidisciplinary Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate - MOSAiC for short. Its “downtown” will be the German research vessel RV Polarstern. Stacked full of food, fuel and scientists, Polarstern will be deliberately frozen into the sea ice for a full year in order to monitor the environment. Surrounding the ship will be the largest array of technical instruments ever assembled on the sea ice in a historic, multimillion pound, multinational research endeavour.

I’ll help set up and deploy these instruments and also participate in perhaps the greatest graduate summer school ever conceived: twenty PhD students will live, work and learn alongside science journalists and communicators, thrashing out the details of the Arctic climate system with the help of the MOSAiC scientists. But freezing a ship into the ice for a year isn’t easy or cheap. It requires an enormous amount of planning and money: 600 scientists from 19 countries will contribute to the 390 day expedition at a cost of more than €140m. So why bother?  We need to do this because the Arctic is the epicenter of climate change. Due to a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification, the region has seen a rise in temperature unparalleled anywhere else on the globe.

Read the full blog by Robbie

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