The scientists of the Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) have selected the piece of ice they plan to freeze into for the next year. The MOSAiC design involves freezing the German icebreaker Polarstern into the ice for a whole year to collect data on the Arctic. The expedition’s leader Markus Rex, head of the atmospheric research department at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, said in a statement, “We’ve found our home for the months to come.”
Since departing from Tromso, Norway on Sept. 20, the Polarstern and an accompanying Russian icebreaker, Akademik Fedorov, has been scouting for an ice floe suitable for the mission. The one selected had to be thick enough to support the planned infrastructure, ideally around 4 feet thick, and large enough to accommodate a runway to transport personnel and cargo. The assessment of the available ice floes included helicopter surveys to measure the thickness of the ice with airborne sensors and going out to take manual measurements with drills.
Researchers found extremely thin ice conditions at many of the floes they surveyed. In the past few decades, Arctic sea ice has been considerably reduced in both thickness and length. This time of year, Arctic sea ice is at its lowest and thinnest of any season, and warm Arctic temperatures this summer made the sea ice in the area particularly thin.
The site the researchers selected is large and thick enough to meet the needs of the mission. Roughly in the shape of an oval, the ice floe measures about a mile and half by two miles and is about 13 feet thick in some places. The scientists plan to build what amounts to a research village on the ice, complete with instruments, heavy machinery, and power lines throughout the site.