The Arctic Survey: measuring the size of the problem… 2 million times

Source: WWF International Arctic Programme

Photo Copyright © Martin Hartley

The Arctic Survey is a ground-breaking venture, which aims to measure the thickness of the Arctic sea ice cap along a complete traverse from Point Barrow, Alaska to the North Pole. It is the first detailed mapping of the sea ice with state-of-the-art impulse radar technology. Satellites and submarines currently provide the scientific community with such data, but this is respectively imprecise and patchy, and critically, neither method can distinguish between the snow layer and the sea ice beneath.

The scientific community has concluded that the only way to gather accurate measurements of the ice cap is by travelling across its surface. The Arctic Survey will significantly improve the accuracy and reliability of computer models forecasting the timing of the ice cap’s disappearance, and the associated impacts on the global climate. Current estimates for the North Pole ice cap’s total disappearance vary from 100 years down to just 5.

The expedition will be carried out between February and June 2009 by a small team of extremely experienced polar explorers, led by Pen Hadow. Pen was the first person to trek solo and unsupported from Canada to the North Geographic Pole, and the first Briton to trek unsupported to both Poles. The explorers will be travelling on foot, hauling their sledges across 2,000km of disintegrating and shifting sea ice for over 100 days in temperatures down to –50°C, swimming areas of open water where necessary. The portable ice penetrating radar attached to one of the sledges will gather over 2 million ice thickness measurements.

The Arctic Survey will form an essential part of WWF’s work to protect the Arctic, raising awareness around the world about the plight of the Arctic, the impact of climate change, and the need to secure radical CO2 emission reductions.

Both the Arctic Survey team and WWF are currently searching for sponsors who are interested in supporting this unique project. It will provide worldwide media outreach and branding opportunities, live video and radio broadcasts from the ice, professional photography, potential seats on re-supply planes out onto the ice and participation in pre- and post-expedition events.

To read more about the Arctic Survey or to contact the team, please visit the Arctic Survey web page or the website of the WWF International Arctic Programme.

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