Dr Thomas Krumpen
Sea-ice Physicist at the AWI
Thomas originally studied Forestry Management in Göttingen, and later specialised in the classification of forest resources using satellite data. During his Master’s studies in Belgium and the USA, he began exploring the use of satellites for environmental monitoring. Following a brief sojourn in Switzerland, Thomas began his doctoral studies at the AWI, focusing on ‘ice formation in the shelf seas’, a topic that he is still exploring today.
Thomas has joined in numerous expeditions to the Central Arctic and Russia, and leads an annual measuring campaign with the AWI’s research aircraft, the goal of which is to survey the summertime ice thickness north of Greenland and Canada. This is a necessary step, since the melting ice in the summer months makes satellite-based measurement problematic. To cover as much distance as possible, the aircraft carry the bare minimum of instruments – and last year, this helped Thomas and his team to become the first German research aircraft to every cross the North Pole in a low-level flight.
Which abilities help you most during your expeditions?
When you’re on an expedition, it’s important to have a certain degree of flexibility, both in terms of working with your fellow researchers, and with the team from the on-site military bases. On top of that, I’m pretty good at time management and have a strong bladder, which comes in handy during long flights with no toilet on board.
Which observations that you’ve seen during your work do you find the most troubling?
In the course of routine measurement taken in the Fram Strait near Greenland, we’ve seen a drastic loss of sea-ice thickness over the past 10 years. At the same time, the area that remains covered with ice in the summer has shrunk considerably. On meereisportal.de users can check the historical data from 1978, which shows how dramatically the summertime sea-ice extent has decreased.
What part can meereisportal.de play in disseminating scientific information?
There’s an interested part of the public that can visit meereisportal.de to access carefully compiled and prepared information on core processes, helping them understand the interrelations involved. The portal has massively improved our ability to reach this group.
If someone asked you what you actually do all day, the answer would be…?
Writing emails and organising things. I really have to invest much of my time in organisation and communication, and sometimes I don’t have as much time as I’d like for research questions. That’s also why I spent most of last Christmas vacation working on a publication, but the topic was so exciting, I didn’t mind sacrificing a bit of my free time.