Understanding climate
for the benefit of society

A polar bear is checking out research instruments during the MOSAiC expedition. Photo: Lianna Nixon, AWI

Deep insights into the Arctic of tomorrow

Interdisciplinary results of MOSAiC drift published


Press release moderated from Alfred Wegener Institute 

Hundreds of international researchers are currently analyzing observations from the one-year MOSAiC expedition, during which hundreds of environmental parameters were recorded with unprecedented accuracy and frequency over a full annual cycle in the Central Arctic Ocean. They have now published three overview articles on the MOSAiC atmosphere, snow and sea ice, and ocean programs in the journal Elementa, highlighting the importance of examining all components of the climate system together. These results present the first complete picture of the climate processes in the central Arctic which is warming more than two times as fast as the rest of the planet - processes which affect weather and climate worldwide.


Diminishing sea ice is a symbol of ongoing global warming: in the Arctic, its extent has almost halved in summer since satellite records began in the 1980s. Less well studied but equally relevant are the thickness and other properties of the ice. The question of what this means for the future Arctic and how these changes will affect the global climate were the impetus for the historic MOSAiC expedition with the German research icebreaker Polarstern from September 2019 to October 2020. With these results coming out now the researchers are building the most complete observation-based picture of climate processes in the Arctic, where the surface air temperature has been rising more than two times as fast as on the rest of the planet since the 1970s. To study the relevant processes for a full year required a special concept, in part because the Central Arctic Ocean is still ice-covered in winter and therefore difficult to access. During the expedition, the icebreaker froze to a large ice floe and drifted with the natural transpolar drift across the Arctic Ocean. And this is where the first surprises came. "We found more dynamic and faster drifting pack ice than expected. This not only challenged the teams on the ground in their daily work, but above all resulted in changed sea-ice properties and sea-ice thickness distributions," reports Dr Marcel Nicolaus, sea-ice physicist at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and co-leader of Team Ice in the MOSAiC project.


A more dynamic Arctic Ocean can generate more turbulence and mixing underneath the ice. Apart from driving physical processes, like heat transport from the deep ocean towards the surface, that may accelerate sea-ice loss, enhanced mixing may also reshape the Arctic Ocean as a habitat by bringing more nutrients towards the light-filled surface waters. Within their AROMA project, UiB and BCCR scientists Ilker Fer, Are Olsen, Zoé Koenig and Till Baumann use complex microstructure observations obtained over the whole MOSAiC drift to investigate the role of under-ice turbulence and mixing in a changing Arctic Ocean.


The three overview articles serve as references for a vast array of future scientific work. "The physical observations are the basis for interpreting biogeochemical cycles and ecosystem processes, and for supporting coupled models that we use to learn even more about climate feedbacks and the global repercussions of Arctic change. These changes can affect weather and climate worldwide," says Prof. Markus Rex, head of MOSAiC and atmospheric scientist at the AWI. "It is fascinating how accurately we can map individual processes and relate them to each other. I am pleased to see how several hundred MOSAiC participants have collaborated on these publications. International cooperation with expedition participants from so many countries continues productively in a highly coordinated manner, even though the expedition has been over for more than a year. In this way, we will be able to provide ever more important insights into climate change, which will provide a knowledge base for societal transformation towards a sustainable approach to planet Earth," says MOSAiC leader Markus Rex.


Original publications


Nicolaus, M, Perovich, DK, Spreen, G, Granskog, MA, Albedyll, LV, Angelopoulos, M, Anhaus, P, Arndt, S, Belter, HJ, Bessonov, V, Birnbaum, G, Brauchle, J, Calmer, R, Cardellach, E, Cheng, B, Clemens-Sewall, D, Dadic, R, Damm, E, de Boer, G, Demir, O, Dethloff, K, Divine, DV, Fong, AA, Fons, S, Frey, MM, Fuchs, N, Gabarro, C, Gerland, S, Goessling, HF, Gradinger, R, Haapala, J, Haas, C, Hamilton, J, Hannula, H-R, Hendricks, S, Herber, A, Heuzé, C, Hoppmann, M, H yland, KV, Huntemann, M, Hutchings, JK, Hwang, B, Itkin, P, Jacobi, H-W, Jaggi, M, Jutila, A, Kaleschke, L, Katlein, C, Kolabutin, N, Krampe, D, Kristensen, SS, Krumpen, T, Kurtz, N, Lampert, A, Lange, BA, Lei, R, Light, B, Linhardt, F, Liston, GE, Loose, B, Macfarlane, AR, Mahmud, M, Matero, IO, Maus, S, Morgenstern, A, Naderpour, R, Nandan,V, Niubom, A, Oggier, M, Oppelt, N, Pa tzold, F, Perron, C, Petrovsky,T, Pirazzini, R, Polashenski, C, Rabe, B, Raphael, IA, Regnery, J, Rex, M, Ricker, R, Riemann-Campe, K, Rinke, A, Rohde, J, Salganik, E, Scharien, RK, Schiller, M, Schneebeli, M, Semmling, M, Shimanchuk, E, Shupe, MD, Smith, MM, Smolyanitsky,V, Sokolov,V, Stanton, T, Stroeve, J,Thielke, L,Timofeeva, A,Tonboe, RT,Tavri, A,Tsamados, M,Wagner, DN,Watkins, D,Webster, M,Wendisch, M. 2022. Overview of the MOSAiC expedition: Snow and sea ice. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 10(1). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.2021.000046 


Shupe, M.D., M. Rex, B. Blomquist, P.O.G. Persson, J. Schmale, T. Uttal, D. Althausen, H. Angot, S. Archer, L. Bariteau, I. Beck, J. Bilberry, S. Bussi, C. Buck, M. Boyer, Z. Brasseur, I.M. Brooks, R. Calmer, J. Cassano, V. Castro, D. Chu, D. Costa, C.J. Cox, J. Creamean, S. Crewell, S. Dahlke, E. Damm, G. de Boer, H. Deckelmann, K. Dethloff, M. Dütsch, K. Ebell, A. Ehrlich, J. Ellis, R. Engelmann, A.A. Fong, M.M. Frey, M.R. Gallagher, L. Ganzeveld, R. Gradinger, J. Graeser, V. Greenamyer, H. Griesche, S. Griffiths, J. Hamilton, G. Heinemann, D. Helmig, A. Herber, C. Heuzé, J. Hofer, T. Houchens, D. Howard, J. Inoue, H.-W. Jacobi, R. Jaiser, T. Jokinen, O. Jourdan, G. Jozef, W. King, A. Kirchgaessner, M. Klingebiel, M. Krassovski, T. Krumpen, A. Lampert, W. Landing, T. Laurila, D. Lawrence, B. Loose, M. Lonardi, C. Lüpkes, M. Maahn, A. Macke, W. Maslowski, C. Marsay, M. Maturilli, M. Mech, S. Morris, M. Moser, M. Nicolaus, P. Ortega, J. Osborn, F. Pätzold, D.K. Perovich, T. Petäjä, C. Pilz, R. Pirazzini, K. Posman, H. Powers, K.A. Pratt, A. Preußer, L. Quéléver, M. Radenz, B. Rabe, A. Rinke, T. Sachs, A. Schulz, H. Siebert, T. Silva, A. Solomon, A. Sommerfeld, G. Spreen, M. Stephens, A. Stohl, G. Svensson, J. Uin, J. Viegas, C. Voigt, P. von der Gathen, B. Wehner, J.M. Welker, M. Wendisch, M. Werner, Z. Xie, F. Yue, 2022: Overview of the MOSAiC expedition – Atmosphere.  Elementa, Science of the Anthropocene, 10 (1), doi: 10.1525/elementa.2021.00060.


Rabe, B, Heuzé, C, Regnery, J, Aksenov, Y, Allerholt, J, Athanase, M, Bai, Y, Basque, C, Bauch, D, Baumann, TM, Chen, D, Cole, ST, Craw, L, Davies, A, Damm, E, Dethloff, K, Divine, DV, Doglioni, F, Ebert, F, Fang, Y-C, Fer, I, Fong, AA, Gradinger, R, Granskog, MA, Graupner, R, Haas, C, He, H, He, Y, Hoppmann, M, Janout, M, Kadko, D, Kanzow, T, Karam, S, Kawaguchi, Y, Koenig, Z, Kong, B, Krishfield, RA, Krumpen, T, Kuhlmey, D, Kuznetsov, I, Lan, M, Laukert, G. Lei, R, Li, T, Torres-Valde  ́s, S, Lin, L, Lin, L, Liu, H, Liu, N, Loose, B, Ma, X, MacKay, R, Mallet, M, Mallett, RDC, Maslowski, W, Mertens, C, Mohrholz, V, Muilwijk, M, Nicolaus, M, O’Brien, JK, Perovich, D, Ren, J, Rex, M, Ribeiro, N, Rinke, A, Schaffer, J, Schuffenhauer, I, Schulz, K, Shupe, MD, Shaw, W, Sokolov, V, Sommerfeld, A, Spreen, G, Stanton, T, Stephens, M, Su, J, Sukhikh, N, Sundfjord, A, Thomisch, K, Tippenhauer, S, Toole, JM, Vredenborg, M, Walter, M, Wang, H, Wang, L, Wang, Y, Wendisch, M, Zhao, J, Zhou, M, Zhu, J. 2022. Overview of the MOSAiC expedition: Physical oceanography. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 10(1). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.2021.00062