While the Polarstern icebreaker was frozen into the central Arctic Basin, it was also surrounded by the companion Arctic Water Isotope Network (AWIN) research stations funded by the Academy of Finland and the NSF (Figure 1). "AWIN allowed us to trace moisture created by evaporation from regions of open Arctic ocean, moisture formed over sea ice and moisture created in sub-polar seas and their differential transport patterns across the basin carrying distinct isotopic fingerprints", Professor Welker explains.
Figure 1. This is a depiction of Welker and his team’s Arctic Water Isotope Cycle Network (AWIN). These stations are measuring continuously the water vapor isotopes (δ18O and δ2H) and collecting precipitation (red stars) and precipitation only (yellow stars) before, during and after MOSAiC.
“These distinct fingerprints provide tracking of warm moisture injection periods into the Arctic in atmospheric rivers or the explosion of cold air outbreaks into the Nordic regions. These flip-flop of warm moisture injections and cold air outflows from the Arctic are becoming the norm and have cascading effects on sea ice structure, snow or rain distribution and in some locations, such as Svalbard and N Finland, can influence the foraging ecology of reindeer”, Professor Welker continues.
“By comparing the data from Polarstern and the AWIN stations, we discovered the isotopic finger prints of leads (slivers of open water) in the ice that were previously under appreciated as drivers of the Arctic water cycle and often not apparent in the large-scale satellite sea ice images. These leads have the potential to greatly amplify the moisture content of storms forming over the Arctic Basin and delivery snow in large amounts and over larger areas than if the storms were only injected with moisture derived from sea ice and snow via sublimation”, Welker adds.
Collectively Welker’s MOSAiC team is revealing the water isotope cycle interactions between the Arctic ocean, sea ice and atmospheric transport patterns and processes that have never before been quantified nor fingerprinted across the Arctic Basin MOSAiC’s (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) mission is in part designed to provide deep insights into the Arctic of tomorrow. The mission is using an interdisciplinary approach and the observations and discoveries now beginning to become part of the international research record in an initial set of publications that highlight the framework of the year-long program and an initial set of findings and the unraveling of Arctic mysteries.
Three overview articles on the MOSAiC atmosphere, snow and sea ice, and ocean programs in the journal Elementa, highlighting the importance of examining all components of the climate system together. These results present the first complete picture of the climate processes in the central Arctic that is warming more than two times as fast as the rest of the planet - processes which affect weather and climate worldwide.
Link to the Atmosphere publication:
Overview of the MOSAiC expedition – Atmosphere. Shupe, M., et al. Elementa, Science of the Anthropocene, 10 (1), DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.2021.00060.
The UArctic Research Chair Professor J Welker has a joint appointment between the University of Oulu, Finland (Ecology and Genetics Research Unit) and the University of Alaska Anchorage. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Colleagues from the Alfred Wegener Institute, the University of Oulu, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Tromso-Norway, University of Aarhus-Denmark, University of Stockholm-Sweden, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, the US NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network) program have all made AWIN possible.
* Photo: Drs, Eric Klein1, Kaisa Mustonen2, Hannah Bailey2 and Jeff Welker1,2,3 (left to right)
1=University of Alaska Anchorage
2=University of Oulu, Finland
3=University of the Arctic (UArctic)
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