After more than a year in the central Arctic, the research vessel “Polarstern” returned to its home port of Bremerhaven yesterday, Monday, October 12. Accompanied by a welcome fleet of oncoming ships, the ship arrived with the morning flood at around 9:00 a.m. over the northern lock. There, Expedition leader Markus Rex, Captain Thomas Wunderlich and the team of the final expedition section were received by, among others, the Federal Minister of Research Anja Karliczek and the director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Antje Boetius. This marks the end of the greatest Arctic expedition of all time.
The MOSAiC expedition was an expedition of superlatives: Never before had an icebreaker been near the North Pole in winter, and never before could international researchers comprehensively gather such urgently needed climate data in the region of the world hardest hit by climate change. Frozen on an ice floe, they braved extreme cold, Arctic storms, an ever-changing sea ice environment – and the challenges of the Corona pandemic. A total of 442 scientific participants, Polarstern crew members, junior researchers, teachers and media professionals were present during the five expedition sections. Seven ships, several aircraft and more than 80 institutions from 20 countries were involved. The scientific participants of the expedition had 37 different nationalities. Their common goal: to explore the complex interactions in the climate system between atmosphere, ice, ocean and life and to better present them in climate models. Now they are coming back full of impressions from the changing Arctic, with a unique treasure trove of data, the analysis and analysis of which will occupy a whole generation of climate researchers.
Even when, due to the coronavirus pandemic, virtually every other expedition around the globe was cancelled, thanks to the broad support of the international scientific community and to the tireless efforts of the entire team, MOSAiC was able to continue. In early summer, the Polarstern had to leave the MOSAiC-Scholle and some autonomous stations for a short time. A new team resumed work on the ice floe after just four weeks and continued the investigation until its last day, when the floe reached the edge of the ice east of Greenland as predicted, breaking under the influence of swells and waves, ending its typical life cycle. In order to capture the missing last piece of the puzzle in the full course of the sea ice – the freezing of the ice at the end of the summer – the expedition then advanced far north, crossed the North Pole and set about a second ice floe in the surrounding area. Despite all the challenges, the MOSAiC expedition successfully achieved its goal: to explore the epicenter of climate change more precisely than ever before over a full year – and thus to take a decisive step forward in knowledge of the Earth’s climate system and its changes.
But the work is not finished with the arrival of the ship, on the contrary: now begins the evaluation of the vast amount of data that had been collected over the past few months. The research teams that had been working on the ice and the ship in the Arctic all the time were not yet able to properly look at their data. This will now be processed in the coming months and years and will greatly expand our understanding of the Arctic, and with it the effects of climate change, which threatens not only this unique region, but the whole world.
Press release Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research AWI
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