British start-up plans to refreeze the Arctic Ocean | Polarjournal
Real Ice is concerned about the loss of ice in the Arctic and is looking for ways to counteract. (Graphic: Real Ice)

The alarming melting rates of ice in the Arctic is one of the most visible signs of our rapidly changing climate. According to WWF calculations, the polar ice caps are melting as global warming causes climate change. Calculations show a loss of Arctic sea ice at a rate of almost 13% per decade while over the last 30 years the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic has declined by an astonishing 95%.

The effects are far-reaching. Ice is crucial for heat re-radiation into the atmosphere. When it gone, there will be no reflection of sunlight back into space (albedo effect), which causes temperatures to rise. Additionally, melting glaciers and ice sheets also contribute to rising sea levels.

But Arctic ice is not only of crucial importance because of its impact on climate change, but also for the inhabitants living in the regions. Around four million people live in the Arctic and depend on fishing and hunting. In addition, most Arctic marine life is directly or indirectly connected to the frozen ocean surface.

left: At the beginning of winter, sea ice is flooded with seawater to create an additional layer of sea ice and remove the insulating layer of snow. Right: At the end of the winter, a new layer of snow is built up to protect the sea ice from solar radiation and help it last longer through the summer months. (Graphic: Real Ice)

The Welsh start-up “Real Ice” has now announced that it is working on a technology that could allegedly refreeze parts of the Arctic ice and increase its thickness.

Andrea Ceccolini, the co-CEO of “Real Ice” said. We are at least trying to preserve the ice that we still have, which at the end of the summer is around four million square kilometers. And if we can, we would like to restore it to the way it was in the 1980s, namely over seven million square kilometers.”

“The latest studies show that within the next 10 to 20 years we will experience the first blue ocean event in which there is no sea ice in the Arctic during the summer periods. And for the first time in two million years.”

In 2021, “Real Ice” officially became a British company and developed a research and development plan to test practical solutions for restoring Arctic sea ice on a large scale. “Real Ice” is supported by the United Nations. However, funding for these ambitious goals has not yet been secured.

Initial trials in Nome showed that Real Ice’s plan could work. (Video: Real Ice)

Sophisticated technology to help

Andrea Ceccolini explains the idea: “Real Ice’s technology works by sending out underwater drones that drill holes in the ice from below. The drones are powered by green hydrogen and launched from floating platforms”.

Water is sucked under the ice through the hole drilled by the drone, sprayed onto the surface of the ice and then freezes in the icy winter temperatures.

By liquefying the snow and adding water to the surface, a new layer of ice forms and the overall temperature of the ice block is lowered, increasing its thickness.

Real Ice will spend the next three years testing and building prototypes. It will then launch its first major exercise, which will cover 100 km² of ice in Canada. The company is currently working with the Centre for Climate Repair at the University of Cambridge.

Andrea Ceccolini during the first attempts in Nome. (Photo: Real Ice)

Critics raise voices

Critics said that a line in geoengineering had already been crossed and that projects were being proposed without regard for wider implications.

Another system to counteract global warming is the release of sulphur particles into the atmosphere with the aim of reflecting sunlight back into space. Again, this scheme is highly controversial.

At “Real Ice”, they want to stay clear of the process of geoengineering. Andrea Ceccolini says: “We are active in the field of geo-mimicry. We do not spread chemicals. We don’t create anything that nature hasn’t created before,” he says.

Link to Real Ice: SCIENCE | Real Ice

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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