DriftStories from the 2019/2020 MOSAiC expedition through the Central Arctic

Dear sea ice fans!

With the DriftStories, once a month we’ll introduce a member of the ICE Team and share insights into the background of their research area. Together with the weekly Sea Ice Ticker, these stories will present the sea-ice-related work being done on site in more detail, and help readers understand the role of sea-ice research within the context of the MOSAiC expedition as a whole. We hope you enjoy reading them!

DriftStories 09 – Algae in the Arctic: Apparently, anything is possible
For algae, life in the central Arctic Ocean presents two significant challenges: firstly, the sun disappears for more than 100 days per year; and secondly, the pronounced stratification of the water masses slows the transport of nutrients from the depths. How can phytoplankton survive the long periods of darkness and spring to life again once the sun returns? AWI biologist Dr Clara Hoppe and her ECO Team explored these questions during the MOSAiC expedition and discovered some of the remarkable survival strategies of the tiny, green organisms.

DriftStory – 08:  The many faces of cold
Auf die Frage: „Wie kalt wird es in der Arktis?“ antworten Polarforschende durchaus unterschiedlich – je nachdem, ob sie eher die Atmosphäre, Schnee und Meereis oder aber den Ozean darunter untersuchen. Im Rahmen der MOSAiC-Expedition dokumentierten Wissenschaftler die Temperaturentwicklung in allen drei Sphären und analysierten, wie sich diese gegenseitig beeinflussen. Ein Ergebnis lautet: Selbst am kältesten Wintertag gab es Temperaturunterschiede von bis zu 60 Grad Celsius! Wie aber kommen diese zustande und was bedeuten sie für das Meereis, haben wir die AWI-Experten gefragt. Hier kommen ihre Antworten.


DriftStories – 07: The importance of the first snowball
In spring, along with the sun, warmer temperatures return to the Central Arctic. However, precisely how this changes the snow layer and how it ultimately affects the sea ice are still not completely understood. Accordingly, throughout the MOSAiC expedition, AWI sea-ice physicists have closely observed the changes in the snow cover, and used a surprisingly simple trick to do so.



DriftStories – 06: Snow, the great unknown
The number of winter days on which snow falls in the Central Arctic can be counted on one hand. Nevertheless, the amount of snow on the Arctic sea ice is a key factor influencing how quickly the snow grows, and when it begins melting in the spring. But until recently, little has been known about this enigmatic white substance. AWI sea-ice physicists have developed and implemented a unique snow research programme, the first findings of which have attracted considerable interest.


DriftStories – 05: One hot strip of ice
How thick does sea ice have to be for aeroplanes to safely land on it – and how do you patch cracks in the landing strip? These and other questions confronted AWI sea-ice expert Christian Haas and his team when they began constructing a landing strip on the MOSAiC floe, in total darkness. They successfully completed the task – and were the first German polar researchers to ever do so. But the project also showed them that building a runway on the ice is a science of its own.


DriftStories – 04: Glittering clouds below the ice
The stages involved in the growth of Arctic sea ice could be found in textbooks back when AWI sea-ice physicist Christian Katlein was still at university. Nevertheless, during the MOSAiC expedition the 34-year-old made an exciting discovery: on a routine sweep under the MOSAiC floe with the AWI’s ROV, he observed a phenomenon previously only found in the Antarctic.



DriftStories – 03: Shaking and Quaking
The thickness of Arctic sea ice depends not only on how much seawater freezes into ice during the winter. Another, increasingly important factor: how frequently the ice shakes and breaks up, floes collide and stack up to form ridges. In the following inter-view, AWI environmental physicist Luisa von Albedyll and sea-ice physicist Stefan Hendricks explain why this happens, and why we still need to learn more about the background of the phenomenon.

DriftStories – 02: For a clearer view from space
Satellite observation is the only way to effectively monitor the Arctic sea ice on a broad scale. Yet this approach still has its fair share of weaknesses. Unparalleled control measurements gathered during the MOSAiC expedition will now help to overcome them.


DriftStories – 01: Detective work on ice that’s far too thin
How AWI sea-ice physicist Thomas Krumpen is tracing the fate of the MOSAiC ice floes back to their roots