On August 12, 2018, a team of scientists and engineers from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, AWI, and the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research, GEOMAR, started on an expedition – mCAN2018 – from Germany all the way to the Mackenzie Delta in the Canadian Arctic. As part of the MOSES group “Permafrost Thaw” we investigate where and how fast permafrost thaws on land and under sea and how this change affects the exchange of energy and methane between the earth and the atmosphere. [More about “Permafrost Thaw”: a presentation by Julia Boike (in German).]
During expedition, we travel along the highway between Whitehorse in Yukon and Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwestern Territories. Along 1500 km, the road leads from the subarctic inland all the way to the Arctic Ocean and gives a unique opportunity to access tundra environments where permafrost research is just beginning. In this blog, we report our progress of work and adventures along this road.
Interdisciplinary, international, and passionate: the mCAN2018 team
- Julia Boike from AWI Potsdam is the expedition leader. Her great passion is the multidisciplinary science of permafrost – looking at the interactions between the hydrology, climate and soil of Arctic landscapes, doing research in the Arctic for over 25 years. Julia “loves going to the Arctic because it is a stunning and beautiful place where I get reminded that we are very small.”
- Inge Juszak from AWI Potsdam is a hydrologist. She measures the interaction between climate, vegetation, and permafrost parameters at transects through and next to thaw slumps, i.e. Arctic landslides. On expedition, she will see her first thaw slump for real. Inge is excited to escape the heat wave in Germany and “is looking forward to meet again the vast landscape and all the little plants I know from the Siberian tundra”.
- Stephan Lange from AWI Potsdam is a data engineer. He enjoys the intense work in the field and at the same time seeing great landscapes like being on vacation. Stephan “is excited to see big Pingos and other strange natural phenomenoms that I can take pictures of with the team’s drone.”
- Bill Cable from AWI Potsdam is an engineer who enjoys the interface of technology with science and coming up with unique solutions to problems. While Bill hates being away from his family for such a long time on expedition, he “finds it interesting to return to the Arctic especially to places I have visited before, to see how they have changed.”
- Ingeborg Bussmann is an expert in the biogeochemistry of the methane cycle working at AWI Bremerhaven and Helgoland. She loves the challenge of the Arctic science where logistics are difficult but exciting science can be done. Ingeborg’s “biggest fear is that we do not get any data at all”.
- Tim Weiß is an engineer in the “Deep Sea Monitoring Group” at Geomar. It is his first time going on expedition so far North and visiting the Arctic land and people. Tim loves working the whole day outside to gather data and “is thrilled about the endless nature surrounding us”.
- Münevver Nehir is doing her PhD on chemical sensor applications at GEOMAR and investigates how changes in permafrost might affect the chemistry of the water columns and the greenhouse gas emissions. Münevver “likes being a part of an interdisciplinary research team and is excited about my first Arctic expedition.”
- Mareike Kampmeier is a PhD student at GEOMAR and uses hydroacoustic methods to map aquatic habitats and monitor munition. It is her first time in the Arctic. She is afraid of the mosquitos in the tundra but would love to see a bear – though only from a very large distance. Mareike “believes science is for done for everyone and the outcome may help people to learn about their environment and to understand and prepare for effects of climate change”.
Good to know: Permafrost – the world’s freezer is thawing
Permafrost – or frozen ground – underlies a quarter of the northern hemisphere’s land mass and a large portion of the Siberian and North American shelves. For thousands of years permafrost has accumulated and stored organic remains from plants and animals. Today, the warming climate thaws permafrost, and the organic matter is released to the atmosphere in the form of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. Researchers like the MOSES team investigate the rates and mechanisms of rapidly thawing permafrost at on Arctic land, in coastal waters and in submarine coastal shelfs.