About: 2018 Expedition

Arctic Ocean 2018 Expedition aboard the SPRS IB Oden

From microbial life in the sea and ice to the life cycle of clouds in the high Arctic

July 31-September 25, 2018

Approximately 40 scientists from six nations (Canada, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA) will spend 57 days aboard the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat (SPRS)'s icebreaker (IB) Oden as part of the 'Arctic Ocean 2018' Expedition. The team of scientists, as well as the ship's crew of 22, will embark on the 57-day expedition from Lonyearbyen, Svalbard (Norway) and will disembark in Tromsø.

Map made using satellite data from nsidc.org and the M_Map package.
Helsingborg is the homeport for the Oden, and we will arrive there on July 9 to help load the ship and set instruments up between July 10-13. Shortly after, the crew will make final preparations before the Oden steams to Longyearbyen over the course of two weeks, while scientists will fly there from Oslo on July 30.

The IB Oden, from http://a76.dk/lng_uk/main.html.
Once we arrive in Longyearbyen, we will board the Oden and embark on our 57-day expedition on the evening of July 31. We expect to reach the marginal ice zone (MIZ) on August 2, where we will sample for 24 hours before making our way towards the North Pole.

We aim to arrive at or near the pole on August 8, where we will moor the Oden to a large multi-year ice floe and begin sampling seawater, multi-year and neighboring first-year ice floes (via helicopter), as well as sampling the atmosphere over the course of five weeks. We will wrap up our sampling on September 15 before heading south to Tromsø, where we will disembark on September 25.

Arctic ice age, 1984-2016 (NASA), also depicting surface currents and circulation. The video also illustrates that Arctic sea ice age has been decreasing.

Image from SPRS.
The Oden is a 108-m-long icebreaker, and it was completed in 1988 by Götaverken AB in Arendal, Sweden, making it only slightly younger than Arctic Andy (but a lot more Swedish!). Since 1988, the Oden has been to the North Pole eight times, and was the first non-nuclear powered icebreaker to reach the North Pole on September 7, 1991. Coincidentally, Arctic Andy's first (and only) time to the North Pole also happened to be on September 7.

Photo taken by Cory Mendenhall (USCG) during the U.S. GEOTRACES Arctic Expedition.
The Oden is an excellent platform for the work that we'll be doing in the high Arctic, since it is designed for maneuvering in heavy ice and has an endurance of 100 days, being well over the 57 days of our expedition. In addition working in the Arctic, the Oden has spent five seasons in the Antarctic as part of the Swedish-American research arrangement.

Schematic of sampling program, from MOCCHA.
The goal of the Arctic Ocean 2018 Expedition is to study microbiological life in the sea and ice, and to understand its connection to cloud formation. The overarching goal of our fieldwork is to better understand how the Arctic Ocean and it's biota are changing as a result of anthropogenic emissions and CO2-induced climate change, and how they will be changing in the future.

In the Arctic, clouds play an important role in maintaining the climate, as they reflect and transmit the sun's radiation (i.e., heat). The balance of heat affects the freezing and melting of sea ice and in turn affects the organisms that depend on sea ice and/or open water for their habitat. Just as Arctic clouds are important to organisms that live in the water and ice, these organisms are important to cloud formation, as they can release particles into the air that cause cloud droplets to form.

The collaborative team that I'll be working with will be focusing on characterizing the chemistry and micro-organisms that live within and below the sea ice. In addition to our characterization efforts, we will be conducting incubation experiments with ice cores in order to understand how ice algae respond to increasing atmospheric CO2.

Ice cores being collected in 2015, from margolab.com/multimedia.html.
The more CO2 that is in the atmosphere, the more CO2 can enter seawater and ice, which causes ocean acidification that is harmful to marine biota. Thanks to satellites, we have been able to monitor sea ice loss over recent decades, and with more of the Arctic Ocean exposed to the atmosphere a result of sea ice loss, more anthropogenic CO2 can penetrate the water and accelerate the rate of acidification.

Sea ice concentration and extent from August 2, 1988 (Oden's first year) on the left and August 2, 2017 (most recent year) on the right. Note that the 2017 extent and concentration were less than they were in 1988, and that the 1988 extent is similar to the 30-year average (orange line), while in 2017 it was less. Images from nsidc.org.

In the Arctic, where warming and environmental change are apparent (see above and Arctic News), the research that we will conduct during the Arctic Ocean 2018 Expedition is necessary for understanding the Arctic climate and Earth's sensitivity to change.