A citizen science project aiming to contribute to Arctic Ocean knowledge by collecting valuable sea ice and meteorological data at the North Pole.
What is this?
In June and July 2017, expedition guides Lauren Farmer, Alex Cowan & Annette Bombosch will be working on board nuclear-powered icebreaker 50 let Pobedy. During two return trips from Murmansk, the ship will break through hundreds of miles of 1-3 meter-thick sea ice, carrying adventurous travelers to stand on top of the world at the Geographic North Pole. While doing so, they will be collecting valuable sea ice and atmospheric data to provide to this project's partners in the research community.
The aim with this citizen science project is to continue to show that the polar tourism industry can do more than just visit the most remote and fragile environments of our earth. With our extended access to these areas, we are in a position to collect and deliver extensive data to institutes and organizations who seek it.
Scroll down to learn more. For photos and updates from the data collection phase, see our blog.
How Is Our Data Being Used?
From the bridge of the icebreaker, we visually assess sea ice thickness and concentration; data collected in this way is more detailed and accurate than is possible with satellite remote sensing, and it is useful for researchers who are making prediction models for ice in the Arctic Ocean. This data will be stored and freely available on the Ice Watch website.
This sea ice data is of most use to researchers studying summer melting and breakup processes, and melt pond measurements will validate models of the absorption and transport of the sun’s heat in the Arctic Ocean, as melt ponds absorb a lot more heat than the ice surrounding them.
Atmospheric data, including cloud cover and type, timed to satellite overpasses and in coordination with sea ice observations, provide useful information which can then be used to assess the linkage between cloud cover and ice cover. As climate change continues to impact ice cover, it's important to understand how this may affect cloud cover and in turn, the solar energy budget of the earth.
Our partners in the science community are the International Arctic Research Center, Ice Watch, US Army Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, NASA and the Norwegian Ice Desk.
Why Is This Project Important?
The Arctic Ocean is seeing rapid changes in its sea ice thickness and extent. This change is very probably a result of an increase in the amount of heat in the ocean/atmosphere system and it has potentially disastrous effects for polar bears and other creatures who make their home in, on or under the ice.
The number of research cruises collecting sea ice data each year is naturally limited by cost, and so by incorporating projects onto tourism vessels we have the potential to greatly increase the number of platforms available to collect data.
This project not only collects useful data for scientists, it also provides inspiration to both the polar tourism industry and to Arctic research communities.
By implementing our data collection program into a tour venture, we hope to show the polar tourism industry just how easy it can be to give back to the regions we travel to, using their own expedition staff instead of always having to bring on an independent scientist. If all of the passenger ships traveling in Antarctica and the Arctic began involving science in their itineraries, how many more platforms would there be for scientific efforts?
Dr Don Perovich of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory
Lin Chambers, Sarah McCrea & the GLOBE Observer team at NASA
Dr. Patrick Taylor (Climate Science Branch) and Michal Segal-Rosenhaimer (Airborne Science Program) at NASA