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At the “cutting edge” – climate research technology in Bremerhaven

No, I haven’t been on a trip down to the Antarctic. This little scene is in the foyer of the Alfred Wegener Institute for polar and marine research in the northern German town of Bremerhaven.
Germany might not be the first place you think of when you think of the Antarctic and Arctic, but the country has an impressive track record when it comes to polar research.


This is a piece of ice taken from BELOW the Antarctic ice sheet, in the AWI lab for examination.


Don’t ice crystals look beautiful?

The Alfred Wegener Institut or AWI for short has its headquarters in Bremerhaven, and it’s a world-leading research centre in its field. The Institute runs the Spitzbergen/Svalbard research base at Ny Alesund in conjunction with the French polar research body. Regular ice blog followers may remember my visit there last year (see entries for June and July 2010) for the ocean acidification project or even an earlier visit in 2007, which also resulted in the “Pole to Pole” picture gallery. This time I had the chance to visit the German HQ with some media colleagues and talk to some of the experts.
There is a special lab here that cuts up the ice cores which are drilled in the Arctic and in the Antarctic.

It’s a chilly minus 20C or thereabouts inside and you wear insulated suits to go in.
The ice cores are transported to Germany in specially insulated boxes and cut up into segments to be analysed. These ice cores provide records of what the climate was like in the past. A lot of the graphs you see showing ice ages and correlating temperature and CO2 are based on this kind of examination. Fascinating.
The AWI as it’s called for short also has the famous research ice-breaker the Polarstern. The ship is fully equipped with winches, laboratories, 2 helicopters, mini submarines and all the other high tech needed to explore polar areas. Polarstern – the Pole Star in translation – travels to the Antarctic when it’s summer there.

I took this photo before the ship left dry dock in Bremerhaven after being overhauled for its current trip to the Arctic. The latest scientific report indicates an unprecedented rate of change in the Arctic, which has warmed twice as much as the world average since 1980.I interviewed AWI’s Professor Lemke amongst other experts for a report on that issue. The scientists on board the Polarstern will be contributing to the data on the state of the far north of our planet, which is of importance to the climate all over the world and to sea level.

Date

June 30, 2011 | 1:10 pm

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