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Unprecedented Antarctic Expedition Sets Out to Map Sea Ice and Solve Climate Change Mystery

Source: Phys.org/Northeastern University - August 8, 2017 in Adventure

Unprecedented Antarctic Expedition Sets Out to Map Sea Ice and Solve Climate Change Mystery
Photo: Ben Holt/NASA/Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

Brutally windy. Unfathomably cold. Disturbingly isolated.

This is the Antarctic Ocean in winter. It’s the last place anyone would want to be—unless you’re trying to solve a climate change mystery.

An international crew of scientists, including Northeastern graduate student Alek Razdan, recently returned from a two-month expedition to the Ross Sea off the coast of Antarctica. Razdan works with Northeastern professor Hanumant Singh, who designed and built another member of the crew—the Jaguar, an .

The research group set sail from New Zealand aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a type of ship called an icebreaker that’s capable of smashing through glacial waters. The expedition was the first ever to deploy an underwater robot into the Antarctic Ocean during winter.

“Old school” measurement gets an upgrade

The goal of the trip was to study sea ice. Huge sheets of sea ice help cool the Earth by reflecting away the sun’s rays. When the ice forms, it produces dense waters that sink deep into the ocean and drive underwater currents that move heat around the globe, controlling temperatures and climates.

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