DRIFT PATH The RV Lance will freeze into the ice north of Nordaustlandet, Svalbard, and passively drift with the ice, likely in a SW direction. Map: Norwegian Polar Institute

– Contributed by Harald Steen, Norwegian Polar Institute

The Arctic Ocean is experiencing a dramatic sea ice loss, not just the area covered by ice but also sea ice volume. We are obviously heading towards a system that was dominated by ice cover throughout the year to seasonal ice cover. This will understandably lead to a change but exactly how the climate, and weather patterns and ecosystem are going to change is more uncertain. To better our prognosis of future change we need good and relevant data. At present we only have scattered data from the drift ice north of Svalbard on the seasonal variation in physical and biological parameters. To close this gap of knowledge the Norwegian Polar Institute will through the Norwegian Young sea ICE cruise (N-ICE2015) project provide a comprehensive dataset on metrology, oceanography, cryosphere, chemistry and the ecosystem.

In January 2015 the research vessel Lance will be frozen into the ice north of Svalbard, at 83.25°N 30°E, and will passively drift with the ice. Judging from historic sea ice drift trajectories, it is likely that RV Lance will drift in a SW direction. The actual drift trajectory and speed are impossible to predict, but the ship will probably be freed from the ice by the end of March. RV Lance will then return to her starting position and start a second drift. Under all circumstances, the ice drift project will end in late June.

The Primary objective is to understand the effects of the new thin, first year, sea ice regime in the Arctic on energy flux, ice dynamics and the ice associated ecosystem, and local and global climate. The experiment will help to (i) understand how available ocean heat is mixed upwards towards the sea ice and to what extent it influences the sea ice energy budget, (ii) understand the fate of solar radiation incident on the first-year sea ice in the region and how its fate is affected by properties of the atmosphere, snow, ice, and ocean, (iii) quantify the changing mass balance of Arctic sea ice and its snow cover, (iv) model and understand the dynamics of the drifting ice, (v) understand the ice associated ecosystem and model future changes, and (vi) understand the effects on local and global weather systems.

N-ICE2015 will give us a golden opportunity to do science in an area, and at a time of year, that has seldom been studied before. An endeavor such as this is impossible without collaboration from many national and international groups. Through this joint effort, N-ICE2015 intends to produce a new and comprehensive dataset on the new sea ice regime in the north, enabling us to meet the future well prepared.

Data collected during this project will help to support the many activities of the CliC Arctic Sea Ice Working Group, as well as the Sea Ice and Climate Modeling Forum and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate Grand Challenge efforts.

For more information on this project visit: http://www.npolar.no/en/projects/details?pid=b98886ce-590a-48a8-b113-4b96e98c65c8 or contact Harald Steen, the project leader.

The CliC International Project Office is hosted by the Norwegian Polar Institute.