What Do White Bears and Permafrost Know About Warming in the Arctic

Зов. Фото: Максим Деминов, участник фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна"
Зов. Фото: Максим Деминов, участник фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна"

On March 26, began the scientific stage of the "Umka-2021" Complex Arctic Expedition, which is conducted by the Russian Geographical Society together with the Russian Navy.

As part of the expedition, the scientists will explore the island of Alexandra Land, which is part of the Franz Josef Land archipelago.

The head scientist of the expedition, Deputy Director of the "Russian Arctic" National Park Ivan Mizin named three most promising directions.

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Променад. Фото: Виталий Дворяченко, участник фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна"
Променад. Фото: Виталий Дворяченко, участник фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна"

The first is the registration of the local population of polar bears. The time when the scientists start working falls on the period when animals leave their dens. The bears will be tagged to understand their migration routes.

“We are expecting to update the database on the movements of polar bears – this is very important for assessing the state of the population and the possible response of animals to climate changes, which result in a decrease of ​​drifting ice area,” said Ivan Mizin.

The scientists are also interested in the health status of the animals. This is why, the health of the entire population will be assessed.

“The island of Alexandra Land is still one of the "ancestral homes" of polar bears in the archipelago,” said the head scientist of the expedition. “And although, as we believe, the anthropogenic load is minimal here, it is still important to assess the degree of influence of human activity on the environment".

The second promising area of ​​scientific research in 2021 is the study of permafrost.

The researchers studying permafrost are planning to establish test plots and drill. Based on the obtained samples, it will be possible to judge the processes taking place in permafrost, including those due to climate changes.

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 Хозяин Арктики. Фото: Кирилл Уютнов, участник фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна"
Хозяин Арктики. Фото: Кирилл Уютнов, участник фотоконкурса РГО "Самая красивая страна"

The expedition members' trip, on one of the days, to the outer coast of the island from the side of the Arctic Ocean might be promising.

“Judging by the satellite maps, there is already open water. The place at the edge of the ice is characterized by great biodiversity,” explains Ivan Mizin. “Seals live here. There is a high probability of seeing bowhead whales and even narwhals.”

For the first time, geophysicists were included in the complex expedition. They are going to install instruments to study the structure of active geostructures, and, possibly, find traces of strong earthquakes in the area.

“We are awaiting an assessment of this part of the Franz Josef Land archipelago from the point of view of long-term monitoring of the state of the atmosphere and processes occurring in permafrost,” summed up the head of the expedition.

During the current complex expedition, the prospects for further work in this sector of the Russian Arctic will be determined.

The team includes specialists from the “Russian Arctic” National Park, the Kola Branch of the Geophysical Survey of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Schmidt Institute of Physics of the Earth, A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, N.N. Zubov State Oceanographic Institute, Melnikov Permafrost Institute of the Siberian Academy of Sciences.