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Climate scientists launch biggest polar expedition of all time

In this image, the research vessel Polarstern is docked and faces the camera nearly head on
The German icebreaker and research vessel Polarstern in Tromso, Norway, on Sept. 18. Photo: Rune Stoltz Bertinussen/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists from 19 countries, including the U.S., embarked on a 1-year, $155-million expedition on Friday to study how warming effects from climate change impact the Arctic region "now and into the future," the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: "We won’t succeed in accurately forecasting climate developments if we don’t have reliable prognoses for the Arctic," scientist and expedition head Markus Rex said in an interview on the polar expedition's website.

What's happening: The polar expedition, dubbed "MOSAiC" or "Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate," entails studying the Arctic climate system while traveling through the trans-polar drift into the Fram Strait between Greenland and the Svalbard archipelago, per the Times. Researchers and scientists will endure a polar winter while deliberately trapped in the ice.

  • During the year-long trip, researchers will measure the Arctic's atmosphere, determining how sea ice is evolving by studying the ocean.
  • The team will also study the Arctic's ecosystem, the air chemistry of the central Arctic and dynamical coupling via atmospheric waves with the ozone layer.

The big picture: Unprecedented sea ice loss is disrupting the balance of heat — and possibly disturbing weather patterns — in the Northern Hemisphere, reverberating through ecosystems and causing everything from plankton blooms near the Arctic Ocean surface to mass haul-outs of walruses in Russia and Alaska.

Go deeper: Arctic melt goes into overdrive