19/02/2015 Frozen – a story of groundbreaking research in the Arctic Ocean

RV Lance is drifting with the young Arctic Sea ice. On board is also Dr. Anna Silyakova form CAGE, conducting the experiments in ice covered ocean. Photo: Paul Dodd/npolar.no RV Lance is drifting with the young Arctic sea ice. On board is also Dr. Anna Silyakova from CAGE, conducting experiments in ice covered ocean. Photo: Paul Dodd/npolar.no

Dr. Anna Silyakova will spend six weeks frozen into Arctic sea ice on board Research Vessel Lance. Her goal is to measure the escape of methane from the ocean covered by young sea ice

Text: Maja Sojtaric

The position of RV Lance 18 February, 2015. It is not a cruise in a warm and comfortable weather. Screenshot: npolar.no
The position of RV Lance 18 February, 2015. It is not a cruise in a warm and comfortable weather. Screenshot: npolar.no

Does the sea ice cap on top of the Arctic Ocean stop methane from escaping into the atmosphere? That is one of the questions that the CAGE oceanographer Anna Silyakova hopes to answer during a very cold experiment. She will spend six weeks on board Research Vessel Lance, which is currently frozen in and drifting with the Arctic ice pack, as a part of the  N-ICE2015 project led by the Norwegian Polar Institute.

RV Lance froze into the ice north of Nordaustlandet on Svalbard in January this year, at 83.25°N 30°E. The aim is to let the ship passively drift with the sea ice. If everything goes as anticipated, the first year sea ice will drift from North of Svalbard Archipelago and Southwest to the Fram Strait, where one of CAGE primary research sites is located.

The drift will take about six months, and during that time several teams of scientists are going to study processes in the sea ice, ocean below and atmosphere above it.

Unprecedented observations

Anna Silyakova sends her greetings from RV Lance, frozen into the Arctic Ocean. photo: Dr. Anna Silyakova.

Anna Silyakova sends her greetings from RV Lance, frozen into the Arctic Ocean. Photo: Dr. Anna Silyakova.

With recent temperatures down to – 40° C around RV Lance it could prove quite a task. Dr. Silyakova however is looking forward to the challenge, which will give her the opportunity to conduct some unprecedented observations on emissions of methane from the ice covered Arctic Ocean. Most of them will be conducted in the middle of the polar night.

“The primary objective is to learn how much dissolved methane there is underneath the ice and in the water column. The common hypothesis is that sea ice seals methane in the water. But no one has so far measured how much methane is accumulated, or if it indeed does accumulate, underneath the ice.” saysDr. Silyakova .

She is also going to examine the ice cores to see if there is any methane in the sea ice itself, or if it is possible for the greenhouse gas to escape the icy confines.

“We think of sea ice as a solid structure, but that is not an exact description. There are pores and channels in it created by brine – very salty water that does not freeze. Channels and pores in the sea ice can potentially lead methane gas from the surface of the ocean to the atmosphere. It will be interesting to see if there is methane released from ocean to the atmosphere through the ice.” says Dr. Silyakova.

Newly developed sensors

Dr. Silyakova will deploy sensors developed for CAGE by Contros in Kiel. There is a fair share of excitement involved with this: The conditions are inhospitable, and precious equipment may get lost.

“The sensor will stay in the water column for four weeks during the freeze in. Needless to say: I don´t want to lose it. We wish to use this equipment for the years to come in our underwater observatories.”

Follow Anna Silyakova´s journey via  following #NICE2015Arctic on social media, cage.uit.no and the cruise blog at npolar.no.

 

 

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