A worried look at the – still – white worlds of the earth: What consequences does the melting of the ice masses have for ecosystems, climate and people? In the cover story of the October issue of bild der Wissenschaft, two scientists report on research and the problematic changes in the polar regions of the earth. The focus is also on the possible threats to the Arctic environment as a result of the region’s increasing use as a source of raw materials.
Icy deserts at the ends of the world: At first glance, the polar regions of the earth seem hostile to life and have little to do with us. But that is not the case: beneath the floating masses of sea ice there is a lush world of life that has far-reaching significance. In addition, the polar regions play an important role in the global climate system and if the glaciers there increasingly melt, there is a global danger: people on the world’s coasts will clearly feel the effects of rising sea levels. Research into the systems and changes in the polar regions is therefore of great importance.
An eyewitness to the change reports
In the first sub-article of the title topic “Expedition into the Ice”, the director of the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Antje Boetius, reports first-hand about research in the Arctic. She provides insights into her personal experiences on research trips with the icebreaker Polarstern, describes the research team’s procedures and goals as well as the results. The focus is on how the progressive decline in sea ice areas affects Arctic creatures.
As Boetius points out, in her research she becomes an eyewitness to the dramatic changes in the white world. It is becoming clear what forecasts suggest: the total loss of summer sea ice before the middle of the century. The scientist also describes the concrete consequences this could have for the ecosystem and the global climate in the article “The White World”.
The view then turns from the far north to the deep south of the earth: sea ice physicist Stefanie Arndt from the Alfred Wegener Institute reports in an interview about research into snow in Antarctica. She explains why structural studies of this precipitation can provide insights into the relationships between ice, ocean and atmosphere. It also illustrates the differences between the icy environment around Antarctica and that in the Arctic Ocean, as well as the various developments in the wake of climate change.
The Arctic awakens problematic desires
In the third sub-article of the title topic, bdw author Ralf Butscher deals with the economic interests in raw materials in the Arctic. As is apparent, there are lucrative deposits of crude oil, natural gas and metals lying underground. Climate change is actually benefiting our desires: melting ice is opening up new shipping routes that make access to the deposits easier. Arctic regions are already being exploited today, the author reports, and an enormous expansion is to be expected. Another problematic aspect is the increasing tourism through cruises in the Arctic region. All of these human influences could cause enormous ecological damage, according to the article “Foraging in the Far North”.
You can read the articles on the title topic “Expedition into the Ice” online as part of a bdw+ subscription, or you can find them in the October issue of bild der Wissenschaft, which will be available in stores from September 15th.