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Biggest North Pole mission back from ‘dying Arctic’

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Researchers on the world’s biggest mission to the North Pole returned to Germany on Monday, bringing home devastating proof of a dying Arctic Ocean and warnings of ice-free summers in just decades.

The German Alfred Wegener Institute’s Polarstern ship returned to the port of Bremerhaven after 389 days spent drifting through the Arctic trapped in ice, allowing scientists to gather vital information on the effects of global warming in the region.

“I have waited for this moment for so long that my heart is palpitating. The ship is now back,” said institute director Antje Boetius from on board another ship accompanying the research vessel back to port.

Ahead of their return, mission leader Markus Rex told AFP that the team of several hundred scientists from 20 countries have seen for themselves the dramatic effects of global warming on ice in the region considered “the epicentre of climate change.

“We witnessed how the Arctic ocean is dying,” Rex said. “We saw this process right outside our windows, or when we walked on the brittle ice.”

Underlining how much of the sea ice has melted away, Rex said the mission was able to sail through large patches of open water, “sometimes stretching as far as the horizon”.

“At the North Pole itself, we found badly eroded, melted, thin and brittle ice.”

– ‘Ice-free Arctic’ –

If the warming trend in the North Pole continues, then in a few decades we will have “an ice-free Arctic in the summer”, Rex said.

The researchers’ observations have been backed up by US satellite images showing that in 2020, sea ice in the Arctic reached its second-lowest summer minimum on record, after 2012.

The Polarstern mission, dubbed MOSAIC, spent over a year collecting data on the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice and ecosystems to help assess the

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Iodic acid influences cloud formation at the North Pole

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arctic
Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

The Arctic is warming two or three times faster than the rest of the planet. This amplified warming is due to several factors, but the relative importance of each one remains still unclear. “We do know, however, that clouds could play an important role,” says Julia Schmale, an EPFL professor who heads the Extreme Environments Research Laboratory and holds the Ingvar Kamprad Chair. “By reflecting the sun’s rays back into space or trapping heat close to the Earth’s surface like a blanket, clouds help either cool off or warm up the planet.”


Schmale—along with scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute’s Laboratory of Atmospheric Chemistry and Stockholm University’s Department of Environmental Science and Bolin Center for Climate Research—spent several weeks collecting data near the North pole in August and September 2018, as part of the US-Swedish expedition Arctic Ocean 2018 on board the Swedish icebreaker Oden. The scientists measured the chemical and physical properties of atmospheric molecules and aerosol particles to better understand the conditions leading to cloud formation.

How aerosols are formed in the Arctic

“One of our objectives was to investigate how new aerosol particles could form in the Arctic atmosphere,” says Andrea Baccarini, a Ph.D. student at the Paul Scherrer Institute and now scientific collaborator in the extreme Environments research Laboratory. “Under the right conditions, gas molecules condense together into small clusters that can grow, eventually forming aerosols.” If these aerosols grow even just a small amount larger, they can function as cloud condensation nuclei, which are essential for cloud formation.

In the Arctic summer and fall, the concentration of aerosols is extremely low. “The contribution of newly formed aerosols can be extremely important and even a small change in aerosol concentration in the high Arctic could have a major impact on cloud formation

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Salty Lake, Ponds May Be Gurgling Beneath South Pole on Mars | Science News

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By MARCIA DUNN, Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A network of salty ponds may be gurgling beneath Mars’ South Pole alongside a large underground lake, raising the prospect of tiny, swimming Martian life.

Italian scientists reported their findings Monday, two years after identifying what they believed to be a large buried lake. They widened their coverage area by a couple hundred miles, using even more data from a radar sounder on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.

In the latest study appearing in the journal Nature Astronomy, the scientists provide further evidence of this salty underground lake, estimated to be 12 miles to 18 miles (20 kilometers to 30 kilometers) across and buried 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) beneath the icy surface.

Even more tantalizing, they’ve also identified three smaller bodies of water surrounding the lake. These ponds appear to be of various sizes and are separate from the main lake.

Roughly 4 billion years ago, Mars was warm and wet, like Earth. But the red planet eventually morphed into the barren, dry world it remains today.

The research team led by Roma Tre University’s Sebastian Emanuel Lauro used a method similar to what’s been used on Earth to detect buried lakes in the Antarctic and Canadian Arctic. They based their findings on more than 100 radar observations by Mars Express from 2010 to 2019; the spacecraft was launched in 2003.

All this potential water raises the possibility of microbial life on — or inside — Mars. High concentrations of salt are likely keeping the water from freezing at this frigid location, the scientists noted. The surface temperature at the South Pole is an estimated minus 172 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 113 degrees Celsius), and gets gradually warmer with depth.

These bodies of water are potentially interesting biologically and

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Are there super salty lakes on Mars? Research suggests buried reservoir near south pole

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The existence of liquid water on Mars — one of the more hotly debated matters about our cold, red neighbor — is looking increasingly likely.

New research published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy indicates that there really is a buried reservoir of super salty water near the south pole. Scientists say such a lake would significantly improve the likelihood that Mars just might harbor microscopic life of its own.

Some scientists remain unconvinced that what’s been seen is liquid water, but the latest study adds weight to a tentative 2018 finding from radar maps of the planet’s crust made by the Mars Express robot orbiter.

That research suggested that an underground “lake” of liquid water had pooled beneath frozen layers of sediment near the south pole — akin to the subglacial lakes detected beneath the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets on Earth.

Image: Mars south polar ice cap (Bj?rn Schreiner - FU Berlin / ESA)
Image: Mars south polar ice cap (Bj?rn Schreiner – FU Berlin / ESA)

Earth’s subglacial lakes are teeming with bacterial life, and similar life might survive in liquid reservoirs on Mars, scientists have speculated.

“We are much more confident now,” said Elena Pettinelli, a professor of geophysics at Roma Tre University in Italy, who led the latest research and the earlier study. “We did many more observations, and we processed the data completely differently.”

Pettinelli and her team processed 134 observations of the region near the south pole with ground-penetrating radar from the Mars Express orbiter from 2012 to 2019, more than four times as many as before, covering a period of time more than twice as long.

They then applied a new technique to the observation data that has been used to find lakes beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, as well as an older technique used in the 2018 study.

Both methods indicate that there is