The expedition will be taking place on the Arctic Ocean, a fragile ecosystem that plays a critical role in driving global climate through processes such as oceanic and atmospheric circulation. This, one of the world's great wilderness regions, has undergone rapid and fundamental change in recent decades; change that will have an impact globally and that will effect the daily lives of every single one of us, no matter where (or how) we live.
THe arctic ocean
Shallow and almost landlocked, the Arctic Ocean is surrounded by the shores of Norway, Russia, the US, Canada, Greenland and Iceland. During the winter the surface of the ocean freezes forming a solid platform of sea ice that doesn't completely melt during the summer. This platform of sea ice provides habitat for marine life ranging from phytoplankton to Polar Bear and plays an important role in global climate systems.
The issue of sovereignty of the Arctic Ocean is complex. All bordering nations claim zones up to 200 nautical miles from their coasts but the central regions of the ocean (around the North Pole) and the seabed beneath are generally considered to be international territory. This is just one of the challenges faced by those looking to ensure the environmental protection of the region.
arctic ocean sea ice
Since 1979 the extent of Arctic Sea Ice has been annually recorded by satellite. The record has illustrated that there is an accelerating decline in annual sea ice extent. But it is not just how much sea ice that appears each year that concerns scientists. They are also worried about the quality and concentration of the ice. In recent decades a greater proportion of Arctic Ocean Sea Ice has been first year ice (ice that forms and melts within a season) as opposed to thicker, more stable multi-year ice (ice that has persisted through more than one summer).
For the very latest sea ice data take a look at the excellent diagrams and animations presented by the National Sea And Ice Data Centre: http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
Sea Ice plays many roles in the global climate system; it acts as an insulating layer between the warmer ocean below and the cooler atmosphere above; it reflects up to 80% of the sun's radiation back into space rather than warming the surface; it assists the global circulation of water and air from the equator to the Poles which drives our planetary weather systems; and it distributes fresh water into more southerly latitudes as it moves south and melts. Scientists around the world are working hard to understand all these complex processes so that they can better predict what impact changes to sea ice might have on these global systems and ultimately our climate.
Read how The Polar Citizen Science Collective is helping to collect knowledge that will improve future sea ice prediction on Poseidon Expedition voyages to the North Pole: https://eos.org/project-updates/citizen-scientists-train-a-thousand-eyes-on-the-north-pole
In years past, bumping into a polar bear at the North Pole would have been considered a highly unlikely event. Polar Bears are dependent on the availability of their prey so they stick to the ice edge where there are more seals. However, changes in Arctic Ocean sea ice in recent decades mean that the sea ice cover is less solid at higher latitudes allowing seals - and therefore the bears that follow them - to venture further North. Last year a Polar Bear was encountered by an expedition team in the last degree.
To read more about the 19 different polar bear populations and their 4 unique sea ice habitats take a look at the very informative website produced by Polar Bears International: https://polarbearsinternational.org/polar-bears/habitat/
strategy for the future
In order to prevent future global warming exceeding 2C, emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gases due to human activity must be reduced by 40-70% by 2050. This scale of reduction requires strategic thinking and committed implementation by governments, businesses and individuals. Anthropogenic climate change cannot be tackled in isolation, the population of the whole planet has to work together.
Tackling the problem is not just about cutting emissions. See how our partner ENGIE, has identified four diverse strategies; Decarbonisation, Digitalization, Decentralisation and Energy Efficicency. https://www.engie.com/en/group/strategy/