International climate research project marked by scientific surprises, logistical challenges.
For nearly 12 months, as the German icebreaker Polarstern drifted with Arctic sea ice, scientists onboard collected petabytes of data describing the ocean, the ice, and the atmosphere. They built research stations on the ice, dipped nets, deployed buoys, and flew drones. Speaking more than a dozen different languages, they worked toward the same goal: Better understanding how dwindling Arctic sea ice influences the region’s climate system—and how those changes ripple around the world.
“We knew the ice was thinning, but it was still far more dynamic than we thought,” said University of Colorado Boulder scientist Matthew Shupe, co-coordinator of the international Arctic mission. “It surprised us,” said Shupe, an atmospheric scientist who is part of CIRES and affiliated with NOAA. “The unpredictability of the Arctic is one of its characteristics right now. And we were right there in the middle of a manifestation of that.”
This morning, more than 380 days after leaving for the central Arctic Ocean from Tromso, Norway, Polarstern returned to its home port in Bremerhaven, Germany. Local ships escorted the Alfred Wegener Institute’s research vessel as it entered the harbor.
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