First detailed picture of global warming in the Arctic

The Arctic’s first comprehensive picture of global warming

The MOSAIC mission, which included CSIC, confirmed climatic processes in the central Arctic, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

Hundreds of international researchers are analyzing measurements taken by the historic international scientific expedition Mosaic, which took place between 2019 and 2020 in the central Arctic Ocean aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern, and during which hundreds of environmental parameters were recorded with unprecedented precision and frequency. Researchers from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) participated in the expedition, and the results of their measurements of the atmosphere, snow, and sea ice were published today in the journal Elementa. These findings provide the first comprehensive picture of climate processes in the central Arctic, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet and has an impact on global weather and climate.

Sea ice melting is a symbol of global warming. Since satellite records began in the 1980s, the Arctic’s summer extent has nearly halved. The CSIC teams that participated in Mosaic and published their findings studied Arctic ice. They are the teams led by Carolina Gabarró of the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) and Estel Cardellach of the Institute of Space Sciences (ICE – CSIC) and member of the Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, respectively (IEEC).

An ocean remote sensing group at the ICM deployed in the Arctic a radiometer similar to the one carried by the European Space Agency’s SMOS satellite, which can measure sea ice thickness. “The goal of this experiment,” Gabarró explains, “was to obtain radiometry measurements under different conditions in order to better understand how certain parameters (snow thickness, temperature, and ice salinity) affect ice emissivity, and to be able to improve the SMOS satellite’s ice thickness measurements.” “This is a fundamental variable for monitoring the drastic changes that are occurring in the Arctic,” he continues.

Because the Arctic is one of the most remote and difficult to access regions on the planet, it is critical to rely on satellite data to continuously monitor the state of the ice. The radiometer installed by the ICM-CSIC team will allow for more accurate estimates of ice thickness from satellites.

The ICE-CSIC Earth Observation group, for its part, led an experiment installed on the ice floe to study the interaction between sea ice and satellite navigation signals (such as GPS). The European Space Agency funded the experiment. “The equipment was designed to operate autonomously and almost continuously in the extreme conditions of the Arctic,” Estel Cardellach explains.

“Are the observations sensitive to ice thickness, roughness, salt content, or the presence of water on the surface?” According to this researcher, preliminary results indicate that this measurement technique based on navigation signals could be used from low-cost satellites to continuously monitor the poles.

The three papers will be used as references for a variety of future scientific work. “The physical observations serve as the foundation for interpreting biogeochemical cycles and ecosystem processes, as well as for bolstering the coupled models we use to learn more about climate feedbacks and the global impacts of Arctic change.” “These changes have the potential to affect weather and climate all over the world,” says Mosaic director and AWI atmospheric scientist Professor Markus Rex.

“It’s amazing how precisely we can map individual processes and relate them to one another.” I’m delighted to see that hundreds of Mosaic participants contributed to these publications. Even though the expedition ended more than a year ago, the international cooperation among expedition participants from so many countries continues to be productive and well-coordinated. As a result, we will be able to provide increasingly important information on climate change, which will serve as a foundation for societal transformation toward a more sustainable approach to planet Earth,” says Rex.

 

Article Author Gerluxe

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