Dr Lars Kaleschke
Lars Kaleschke studied Physics at the University of Bremen, and even as a student was able to gain practical experience during his first expedition to the Arctic on board the research icebreaker RV Polarstern – which is likely one of the main reasons why his passion for sea-ice research remains undiminished to this day. It was while he was pursuing his PhD at the University of Bremen’s Institute of Environmental Physics that he discovered his current research focus.
After 12 years as a Professor at Universität Hamburg, he joined the AWI shortly before preparations began for the upcoming MOSAiC expedition. In the largest field experiment in the vicinity of the North Pole in history, a massive, interdisciplinary team of researchers hope to gain a better understanding of the Arctic climate and ecosystem. Lars will be present onsite for part of the experiment in order to take measurements and obtain the previously unavailable data that is needed for current and future satellite missions. However, in his professional life, expeditions are the exception rather than the rule; more often, he receives regular batches of data from satellites, which are essential to seamlessly observing the polar regions.
How does your work contribute to sea-ice research?
My research focuses on remote sensing of sea ice using Earth observation sensors, which largely rely on microwaves. For comparison, we take measurements on the ice’s surface using similar sensors. In this regard, we differentiate between active and passive types. At the moment I’m mainly working with passive sensors, which measure thermal emissions and which help us to determine key parameters like sea-ice extent and the thickness of thin sea ice. As such, these sensors complement measurements from satellites such as CryoSat2, which are particularly good at measuring thick ice. One of our goals is to successfully ‘repurpose’ sensors originally developed for other functions in order to determine sea-ice characteristics, which will allow us to put current and future Earth observation satellites to optimal use.
How can meereisportal.de help to make scientific findings more accessible?
One of the most important tasks for the scientific community is to arrive at new findings, and then to communicate them in such a way that they reach the public. Here, meereisportal.de plays a significant role by making information available, so that anyone with an interest in it can access the relevant content. In this regard, it’s also important to find a healthy balance between simplifying the information and maintaining scientific accuracy, so as to provide a basis for more informed decision-making in society at large, but also in political circles.
What sets the information provided at meereisportal.de apart?
We offer a great deal of background information that users can’t necessarily find in the media. Sea ice is the quintessential symbol of climate change, because it very clearly shows the current state of the climate, and the corresponding data can be easily visualised: the gradual rise in temperatures isn’t something we can feel, but on maps of the sea-ice extent for the past 30 years, we can clearly see the effects of these climbing temperatures, in the form of sea-ice retreat.
My personal hero is…
During my first Polarstern expedition, I stumbled across the book ‘The Geophysics of Sea Ice’, edited by Norbert Untersteiner, in the ship’s library. It would become one of the most important books in my research career. Moreover, the Arctic Ice Dynamics Joint Experiment (AIDJEX), which he and his team conducted in the 1970s, made him a true pioneer of modern polar research.