Arctic ice is receding ‘more quickly than ever’

Members of the MOSAiC expedition witnessed dramatic changes in Arctic sea ice first hand.

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Ice in the Arctic is receding more quickly than ever, a German researcher who headed the largest expedition to date in the area said on Tuesday.

The icebreaker Polarstern, the flagship of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute, set off from Tromsø, Norway in September 2019 and headed towards the central Arctic, where it froze in the ice and began a year-long drift over the polar ice cap, before returning to Bremerhaven, Germany last October as part of MOSAiC, the most ambitious Arctic research expedition ever undertaken.

The expedition’s leader, Markus Rex, a professor at Potsdam University’s Institute for Physics and Astronomy, said one of the team’s findings was that “the expansion of the ice was only about half as large in the summer than decades ago and only about half as thick as during the times of (Norwegian explorer Fridtjof) Nansen and his expedition with ‘Fram,’ a wooden sailboat almost 130 years ago.”

Rex said there were “several tipping points in the climate system which lead to irreversible, sudden changes which are triggered when the planet reaches a certain temperature.”

He and his team saw first hand that “we are on the verge of that tipping point which will lead to the disappearance of the ice in the Arctic summer,” he said.

In total, 442 researchers, crew members, teachers and journalists hailing from 37 countries were involved in the five stages of the expedition, according to the AWI.