Catlin Arctic Survey 2011
The 2011 Catlin Arctic Survey focuses on evolving conditions in the Arctic Ocean that could cause changes in the ocean currents that influence the prevailing climate of Europe and the East Coast of North America.
To launch the 2011 Catlin Arctic Survey and to raise awareness about the key scientific issue – thermohaline circulation – we have created a video explaining more about the project.
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Go to Catlin Arctic Survey YouTube Channel
The survey began in March when a team of polar explorers and scientists left for a 10-week expedition and research project to examine the surface layers of the Arctic Ocean. The Catlin Arctic Survey team – which includes specialist explorers and leading oceanographers from the United States, Canada and the UK – are studying changes to sea temperature, increased fresh water and ocean currents in the Arctic, one of the world’s most extreme environments.
- An international team of scientists are gathering data and conducting research from the Catlin Ice Base, a unique research station located on the sea ice at the edge of the Arctic Ocean in Canada.
- A team of Arctic explorers will undertake two separate missions to gather additional data: across Prince Gustav Adolf Sea and from the North Geographic Pole towards Greenland. The explorers will collect data from the murky depths below the frozen ocean surface as part of a research project devised by Dr. Simon Boxall of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK.
Dr. Boxall said: “Catlin Arctic Survey 2011 will help us understand the process of ice melt and how quickly fresh water from melting ice is being taken away from the area. The first few metres of water, in particular, are critical for understanding the process of bottom-up ice melting, something that could accelerate Arctic ice melt and disrupt ocean circulation.”
He also said that there is an immediate need for a better understanding of this little-researched process to inform out-of-date climate models. “The Arctic is changing faster than IPCC models forecast; over the last four years we have seen the surface area of Arctic ice decline to levels predicted for 2070,” Dr. Boxall explained. “If the ice continues to melt at its present rate, predictions made as recently as 2003 could happen 60 years earlier than expected – potentially precipitating changes to ocean currents sooner.”
Why study the oceans?
The Arctic Ocean plays a vital role in driving ocean currents globally. Research scientists speculate that warming Arctic waters combined with increased levels of fresh water from melting ice sheets, ice caps and glaciers could radically unbalance the processes which sustain the most significant of these currents – what is known as ‘thermohaline circulation’.
These major currents carry heat and nutrients around the world’s oceans. Any change to conditions influencing these ocean currents could have impacts far away from the Arctic. For example, the climate in portions of the UK and Europe could cool, leading to increased snowfall in winters, while the frequency and intensity of severe storms – including hurricanes and tornadoes – could increase in the eastern portion of the US. Monsoon patterns could change in Africa and Asia.
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