DriftStories from the Central Arctic – one year, one floe – sea-ice research to the extreme!

20 January 2021

Spending an entire winter researching on an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean was, until now, just a pipe dream for most sea-ice experts. It was always assumed that such an expedition would be too costly, the polar weather too unpredictable. But September 2019 saw the start of something that had long been considered impossible. Within the framework of the international MOSAiC expedition, the German research icebreaker Polarstern allowed itself to become trapped in the Arctic sea ice, offering researchers from 20 countries a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In a camp on the Central Arctic ice, around the clock they investigated the sea ice, ocean, atmosphere and life in the sea. They witnessed a dramatic transformation of the North Pole region, the consequences of which are likely to affect the sea ice first.

The editorial team of the meereisportal.de (seaiceportal.de) accompanied the sea-ice specialists taking part in the expedition during their work on the ice and reported on their backgrounds, methods, advances and findings in the portal’s DriftStories. In a total of ten stories, we introduced scientists from the expedition’s ICE team, highlighted their research fields and, in the form of online reports, provided more detailed information on the sea-ice-related work done on site and positioned the research in the context of the overall MOSAiC expedition.

Now these DriftStories from the Central Arctic have been published as a printed booklet, allowing you to immerse yourself in this unique expedition and be inspired by the challenges and experiences of the researchers on site. This publication brings together all ten stories with the goal of offering interested readers insights into the fascinating and surprisingly complex world of Arctic sea ice. The DriftStories gathered in the booklet are supplemented by an introduction that frames the topic of sea ice in terms of the ‘big questions’ concerning the changes taking place in the Arctic climate.

Read how the MOSAiC ice floe was found, how satellite measurements help to keep a macro-level eye on the Arctic sea ice, what role the thickness of the sea ice plays, what the scientists discovered beneath the ice of the MOSAiC floe, under what challenging conditions they built a runway on the ice, and how important it is to know the properties of the snow.

In addition, the booklet shares insights into the extensive technical equipment – the measuring devices, instruments and research platforms used, and stored in a special equipment container – and, through unique photos of the expedition participants, offers glimpses of an Arctic that might no longer be there tomorrow. Like our protagonists, you, too, can witness the transformation of the Arctic and experience, perhaps for the last time, the drift of the Arctic sea ice as we know it: the days of the Arctic’s hallmark snow and ice are numbered.

You can order the DriftStories free of charge by sending an email to info@REKLIM.de and providing your contact details and address, or you can download the digital PDF version.

Dr Klaus Grosfeld
Dr Renate Treffeisen
Sina Löschke (science writer)