Is the Arctic Ice Getting Thinner

Forecasts indicate that this year’s sea ice minimum, set to peak in September, will not be as low in 2007 which itself was the year that saw the Arctic sea ice at its smallest on record. But scientists are still concerned, and as a result are measuring the ice thickness north and east of Greenland.

Sea ice physicists at the Alfred Wegener Institute are measuring the sea ice using the research aircraft Polar 5, which trails an electromagnetic measuring device – the EM Bird – behind it to measure the thickness of the ice.

“I’m very keen on seeing the results of the sea ice thickness measurements,” says Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Gerdes from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association. “Only when we know the distribution of ice of varying thickness, can we calculate how much freshwater is carried out of the Arctic Ocean via ice.”

This is Gerdes’ first time visiting the Arctic, allowing him to expand his research away from modelling ice thickness on his home computer. Satellite information will be combined with the data from the EM-Bird to explain just how thick or thin the Arctic sea ice is.

“Taking off on the measurement flights from Station Nord here is a special adventure,” reports Gerdes from one of the northernmost measuring stations in the world. “Flying through virtually unsettled regions of the Arctic in the high-tech research aircraft is a stark contrast to my modelling work on the computer.”

Source: Alfred Wegener Institute
Image Source: Christian Haas, University of Alberta / Alfred Wegener Institute

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