Thursday, March 1, 2007

Canadian Polar Climate Study

The largest research project ever undertaken in the Arctic will study the impact of global warming on the sensitive region's ecosystem next winter, Canadian project leaders said on Thursday.

Researchers will troll a frigid open channel on the Beaufort Sea using a retrofitted icebreaker to study the Arctic environment and its shrinking sea ice.
The C$40 million ($34 million) investigation involving more than 200 researchers from 14 countries is believed to be the largest single study in the International Polar Year program, launched on Thursday in Paris.
It will be the first time a ship has spent the winter in the circumpolar flaw lead -- the cracks that develop between the permanent polar ice and coastal ice -- said David Barber, a Canadian sea ice expert leading the study.
"These cracks are early indicators of what we expect the Arctic to look like as we move into the future, because more and more, the Arctic will be open of sea ice," said Barber, who is based at the University of Manitoba.
Global warming is amplified at the Earth's poles, melting about 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 square miles) of Arctic ice each year, a pace that could see the region seasonally free of ice by 2050, Barber said.
Less ice means the ocean can absorb more sunlight, further heating up the water and the environment, and affecting the entire ecosystem.

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