Survey to study ice cap melt in North Pole

Published: Wednesday 31 October 2007

a team of explorers is set to begin its journey to capture the most accurate data on the North Pole. The Vanco Arctic Survey lead by Pen Hadow will begin in February next year. The team will be in the arctic for trial of equipment in the last week of October.

The explorers will record detailed information on the thickness of the ice cap, which scientists say will vanish in a few years. "If we discover that the central region of the ice cap is really melting as fast as some experts fear, this will provide the decisive wake-up call for political leaders to prepare for the global consequences," says Hadow. The disappearance of the ice cap can cause serious climatic problems.

The team includes polar explorer Ann Daniels and Arctic photographer Martin Hartley. They will cross the 2,000-km ice cap in 120 days and use specially developed, 4-kg impulse radar and manual ice-coring to determine snow and ice thickness. This data will help scientists determine the longevity of the ice cap.

The ice currently covers 3 per cent of the earth's surface and is decreasing at a rate of 100,000 sq km per year because of global warming. Changes in climate are affecting the livelihoods of the indigenous pan-Arctic people living in the coastal region, says Hadow.

The survey team will use the data to reassess existing information on arctic, gathered by satellite and submarine, which is incomplete.

"Up to now, most estimates for the likely disappearance of the Arctic ice cap have focused on the rate of shrinkage of the ice surface. But this survey is looking forward to add a third dimension by measuring ice thickness to enable us to quantify better its volume and so its lifespan," says Joao Rodrigues, the survey's head of science, who is part of the Polar Oceans Physics Group at the University of Cambridge.

The sole sponsor of the project, Vanco, a global telecom major, promotes effective networking as a tool for reducing emissions.

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