British Explorers Measure Arctic Ice Melt
by Alan Harten
March 2, 2009
A famous British explorer of the Arctic, Pen Hadow, together with Ann Daniel and Martin Hartley, landed on the Arctic ice on Saturday, approximately 670 miles north of Canada.
From there they will trek 400 miles to the North Pole, taking measurements of ice thickness to determine to what degree the polar icecap is melting.
The team will move for 75 minutes each day, then halt for fuel and food.
They will consume, at least 7,500 calories a day – more food than they can carry.
Dome of the hazards the team will encounter include open water, large ridges and long stretches of ice, polar bears and temperatures below freezing point.
Also, the ice crust is moving, constantly changing directions.
Satellite data has revealed the amount of shrinkage in the Arctic sea-ice over the past few years, but satellites cannot provide information about ice thickness.
One sledge is fitted with mobile radar, which will continuously measure the thickness and allow scientists to assess the degree to which the ice is thinning.
The data will be sent via satellite to scientists in Monterey, California at the U.S. Postgraduate Naval School.
The trekkers will record weather conditions three times a day, water temperatures, flow and salinity.
They will also take radar measurements every 10 centimeters and drill into the ice 10 times a day.
The sea-ice may be melting at a higher rate because of air temperatures increasing over the ice and of water warming beneath.
Scientists studying the Arctic blame the differences on climate change.
Recently, the retreat of Arctic summer sea-ice has become more pronounced and there are apprehensions that the ice may be thinning too.
The past two years, specifically, have seen the lowest mid-September coverage.
Researchers have predicted that the Arctic may be ice-free during summer by the end of the 21st century, although some now believe that might happen much sooner.
Professor Wieslaw Maslowski, scientific adviser to the expedition, anticipates that the data will permit him to upgrade his forecast of when the first ice-free summer could occur.
At present, he believes that it will be 2013, but possibly 2010 to 2016.
Hadow said on site data about the permanent sea ice is needed very quickly now.
If the ice is thinning rapidly, alarm bells should ring all over the planet
The survey team hopes the data results will be available for the Copenhagen conference in December 2009.
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