Visitors to the Arctic Circle will recall how otherworldly the place is. It’s far enough from the bustle of urban life that reaching the center of town in a tourist car requires starry night in which the stars glitter. The aurora borealis — like its similar cousin in Scandinavia — is a sight that evokes images of Dr. Who or an asteroid belt.
But now, soon-to-be Russian scientists are planning a journey to the Arctic Circle, where they will try to discover the effects of climate change in the famous Russian region of Primorsky Krai, not far from where explorer Vasily Komarov claimed to have discovered the ice. The mission will need space ships to explore the furthest depths of the subarctic sea before scientists at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization can set up base near the Arctic icecap, so they’re excited to engage in an endeavor that Russia’s president and prime minister have embraced. “It’s a journey that we dream about doing. But even if we don’t find any ice, we’ll get enough data and that will be a lot more interesting,”
So curious about ice-drift waters of the deep ocean is Russia’s most populous region of Primorsky Krai that it dispatched researchers into them last year to the Kola Peninsula, a vast, northern arc of bayous that leads out to the Arctic Ocean. In the summer, scientists left and surveyed the water about 5.6 miles below the surface, 1,700 feet below the seabed — an area the size of France, the Times of London reports.
Now, the scientists plan to explore the depths to depths of more than 7,000 feet. And their treatment of the fieldwork has led officials in Russia to send up warning: Don’t drink the water.
Moscow is worried not just about climate change in Primorsky Krai but more broadly because of how fragile the Arctic is from heat and pollution, according to a commentary in the New York Times last week. Russia fears that areas of the world’s biggest boreal forest could lose a fraction of its ice because of global warming. In the Arctic, about 33 percent of its climate zone and two-thirds of its permafrost have melted in the past decade.
The scientists say they’re looking for information about the effect of permafrost on the ocean currents and how riptides and currents affect the dark ice beneath. The primary question is not so much whether the season will hold or not but what the extent of the melt will be, the Times reports.
Alexander Drosoberev, head of an international network of scientists searching for environmental clues, told the Times: “In Russia, a lot of work is being done to limit and prevent the effects of climate change. This includes with regard to protecting the permafrost, on our coastlines and even on the frontiers of Siberia.”
But the Russians are particularly concerned about the safety of the scientists who will drill so deep in the Arctic Ocean. “Using instruments in the sea, they are trying to determine the extent of the sea-ice breakup,” he said.
Mr. Drosoberev added: “Every year on March 1, the sea-ice melts by 0.5 to 2.0 meters, reducing water temperature 2 to 5 degrees in the following two months. This is the same as riding a bicycle on broken glass.”
And the worrisome effects of the loss of Arctic ice extend much further than that. “Today, by melting, these ice shelves also protect the offshore islands from ocean heat, and the melting ice itself itself reduces the fresh water for marine life,” said Alexandr Terekhov, who works with the Russian International Institute for Geophysics, a state-run research organization.