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7 July 2017

UK Scientists Head out on New Arctic Expedition

Expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic regions have become a growing trend in the scientific community recently as the need to understand what climate change is doing to these parts of the world becomes crucial.

Img: British Antarctic Survey
The latest expedition is one that set off from British shores at the end of June with over twenty researchers on board looking to investigate the effects that a warming climate is having on the Arctic. Travelling on board the RRS James Clark Ross, the voyage headed off to the Barents Sea north of Finland for a six week trip that acts as part of a larger £10 million research programme.

As global temperatures rise, it’s become imperative to understand how this affects the world so that appropriate policies can be put in place to try and combat the problem. The Arctic is one of the biggest areas impacted by climate change, with the migration of species and the thinning and retreat of sea ice causing huge difficulties for the region. Considering this can have a knock-on effect by raising sea levels and submerging many coastal towns in water, the more research that’s carried out the better.

The UK voyage will explore the interactions between organisms in the ocean and filter through seawater to examine phytoplankton and zooplankton in the area. It will also deploy underwater technology to gather data close to the ice.

Dr Jo Hopkins, Principal Scientific Officer on the expedition, said that:

“This is an exciting and ambitious first research expedition that will collect a vast amount of information about Arctic water and sediments and the life they support. Improving our understanding of how the Arctic ecosystem functions today will help us better predict and manage how it may change in the future.”

The larger research programme is expected to last four years and covers a range of projects that all look into how the Arctic is being moulded by climate change. This includes how the change is affecting the food chain (the ARISE project), how it influences the main source at the bottom of the food chain (DIAPOD), and the effect that retreating and thinning sea ice has on nutrients in the surface ocean (Arctic PRIZE) as well as on the seafloor’s ecosystem (ChAOS).

This voyage to the Barents Sea is just the first step in making progress to develop models that can help predict how environments and ecosystems will change in years to come. Hopefully by the time the programme reaches its end, there will be tactics in place to stop the rapid loss of the Arctic ice before there’s nothing left to save.

James Darvill

James is a passionate scriptwriter and reluctant poet with a talent for the dystopian. When he’s not staying up late watching the Simpsons he’s beating the world at Mario Kart, always with a glass of wine in hand.