Studying Climate Change by Researching Ice

The International Polar Year (IPY) is a significant research program focused on the Arctic and Antarctic. The last observation covered measurements from March 2007 to March 2009, to cover two complete annual cycles. It still is one of the most significant multinational research collaborations ever undertaken.

Over 200 initiatives have been developed to investigate the effects of climate change and the significant ties that these areas have with the rest of the world. IPY previously took place in 1882-3, 1932-3, and 1957-8. Many of the Arctic IPY initiatives include the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

Studying Climate Change by Researching Ice

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

The Uncertainties of the Arctic Environment

The Arctic has a significant impact on global climate and is the world’s fastest-warming region. Natural and man-made influences are especially dangerous to the finely balanced ecosystem. The ice decreased to its lowest point in history in the summer of 2007, and there was significant open water just under 500 miles from the Pole at 83° North in 2008.

Four Free-Drifting Stations

From 2003 to 2008, an international group of 24 researchers embarked on a five-week journey on the large icebreaker Louis S. St. Laurent, the Canadian Coastguard’s flagship. Their purpose was to investigate sea ice in the Arctic Ocean and assess the consequences of climate change and ice loss.

SAMS made a significant contribution by designing and building a set of sensors to measure the movement of heat between the sea, the ice, and the atmosphere at freezing temperatures around -50 degrees Celsius.

SAMS set up four unmanned stations to complement the Arctic Synoptic Basin-wide Oceanography program’s in-situ investigations. The temperature at different depths in the ice, meteorological factors and solar radiation are all monitored by these free-drifting stations, which are deployed on ice floes to monitor crucial environmental data.

A Kipp & Zonen CNR 1 net radiometer positioned at a height of 2 meters above the ice measures the four factors of the radiation balance. Two stations use a new Conductivity/Temperature/Depth (CTD) package with a SAMS-developed automatic winch to take hydrographic observations from underneath the ice to the ocean floor.

Studying Climate Change by Researching Ice

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Studying Climate Change by Researching Ice

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

Batteries and solar panels are used to run the equipment for up to two years. Each station has a webcam that takes twice-daily photos of the surface conditions. The Iridium satellite system transmits information, commands, image “thumbnails”, and diagnostics in live time, with the ability to request full-resolution photos as needed.

The equipment was created under the direction of David Meldrum, a glaciologist, oceanographer, and technological expert — who is also the only UK member of the IPY project team.

David was needed to compute albedo and energy flows as well as monitor input and reflected solar radiation, down-welling and up-welling far-infrared radiation to assess the energy balance. He needed a high-quality, dependable instrument that has been tested in polar conditions.

David selected the Kipp & Zonen CNR 1 net radiometer as a vital component of the SAMS monitoring package, as did many other researchers working in the Polar Regions and on glaciers.

The project’s findings will be utilized to enhance the ability to predict the future of sea ice and the consequences for the animal and human populations that rely on it for survival.

Studying Climate Change by Researching Ice

Image Credit: OTT HydroMet

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by OTT HydroMet. Kipp & Zonen is one of OTT HydroMet's strong brands for professional environmental monitoring solutions.

For more information on this source, please visit OTT HydroMet.

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