Towards the Barents Sea ice

Video from the Arctic expedition on the research vessel “Professor Molchanov”, organized by the Northern Arctic Federal University (Arkhangelsk, Russia) – English translation below.

One of the planned activities within the framework of the project “Ice Operations” funded by the Kolarctic programme is an Arctic expedition on the research vessel “Professor Molchanov”, organized by the Northern Arctic Federal University (Arkhangelsk, Russia).

One of the goals of this complex expedition is to study the Arctic ice. The Barents Sea is the main non-freezing sea in ​​the Arctic Basin, so it is important to monitor the movement of ice to ensure the safe passage of ships. In addition to ships, there are offshore oil and gas platforms, which can be damaged by ice.

Dmitry Kovalev is a leading engineer at the Higher School of Information Technologies and Automated Systems (NArFU) and one of the expedition members. His task during expedition was compilation of ice maps. The data collected during field work at sea is extremely important for assessing and forecasting ice conditions. Field studies and observations help to estimate ice thickness, its age, structure and direction of movement. Upon arrival, the project participants will conduct validation: compare the data obtained during the expedition with available satellite images. Databases from satellites cannot provide comprehensive information about current ice situation, they need to be supplemented with information obtained during field work: “We had data from available satellite images, according to them we expected to see the ice in the north and northeast, but we met it in the north west. Moreover, icebergs are not always visible on satellite images, – reports Dmitry Kovalev. – Before the expedition start it was doubtful that we can discover ice in the Barents Sea at this time of the year. However, we ended up in ice fields. Icebergs were rarely seen here before, but due to global warming their number has increased. We saw a rather large iceberg; it was even larger than our ship.”

An integrated approach and participation of specialists from the entire Barents region are needed to make ice situation analysis and develop more accurate models and forecasts. The joint work of the project participants from Russia, Finland, Norway and Sweden will be continued at working meeting in Arkhangelsk on August 20-21, 2019, where the expedition results will be presented and further project activities planned.

More information about expedition can be found on the website of the Northern Arctic Federal University:

Relevant English translation of the Russian audio in the video

off-screen voice
The Professor Molchanov found itself in a real labyrinth of ice, with giant floes surrounding it on all sides. The task of conducting ice investigations lies with Dmitry Kovalev, expert for Ice Operations project. 
DMITRY KOVALEV Chief Engineer at NArFU HSITAS, Ice Operations expert
The ice conditions we encountered defied all expectations. The satellite images I had examined prior to the start of the expedition showed that the ice tongue remained far off.     
10:14 The ice that we witnessed was very close ice – 7 to 8 points, classified as a serious degree of ice concentration,  
10:19 even for Professor Molchanov, despite its ice reinforcement class 5.
10:25 Ice thickness varied between 70 cm and 120 cm, representing quite a challenge for Professor Molchanov. Also, because the ice was so compact, wider polynyas would alternate with narrow ones, forcing us to maneuver through an intricate network, a labyrinth.  
10:45 No one would expect the ice conditions as intricate as this.
10:48 Even a most sophisticated technology can be a poor tool for identifying the actually occurring ice conditions. Satellite images can be misinterpreted. Observations from onboard a ship seem to be only way to provide a clear picture.    
10:59 Let’s get a close-up…This is us moving along. We even made a detour trying to find the way out of this – I don’t want to use the word ‘trap’ – labyrinth that we had the misfortune to get caught in. 
11:13 The thing is that over the course of, say, two decades, as the global warming continues, not only there has been a significant increase in the amount of ice which is being squeezed out into the Barents Sea –
11:27 and the Barents Sea is one of the non-freezing seas belonging to the basin of the Arctic Ocean –
11:34 there are more frequent occurrences of fragments of continental ice, known as icebergs.
11:42 It is these large pieces of continental ice that pose the gravest danger to ships and oil-producing platforms.
11:51 So, it is one of the core tasks before Ice Operations to learn how to predict ice behavior year on year, that is be able to identify time intervals and sea sections where operations could be conducted safe and unthreatened. And we also want to investigate iceberg statistics. 

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