Polar explorer Pen Hadow brings scientists and explorers together for arctic expedition – to Explore earth’s ‘other carbon dioxide problem’, ocean acidification

The Catlin Arctic Survey today announced it has teamed up with leading research scientists to investigate the effects of carbon dioxide on the Arctic Ocean.

Polar explorer Pen Hadow, who is Director of the mission, said it will begin in early March and take scientists to an Ice Base only 750 miles from the North Geographic Pole to study the potential impact of rising levels of acidity in some of the coldest water on the planet.

Some scientists believe that, based on current projections, the pH of the world’s oceans could reach levels by 2050 not seen on Earth for 20 million years with potentially serious consequences for all marine life.

For the international scientists studying ocean acidification, the Catlin Arctic Survey 2010 is an important opportunity to gain access to a unique but inhospitable environment, most notably in the winter and early spring.

Dr. Carol Turley of the Plymouth Marine Laboratory said: “We understand from models projecting future ocean chemistry that the Arctic Ocean is particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification because cold water absorbs CO2 more effectively than warm oceans, so much so that it may become corrosive to some shelled organisms within a few decades.

“As you can imagine, taking samples and carrying out experimental work is particularly difficult due to the harsh environment. This will be one of the first chances for scientists to investigate ocean acidification under natural field conditions under the Arctic sea ice, and will help us to test out models and refine our projections.”

Professor Jean-Pierre Gattuso of CNRS-Université Pierre et Marie Curie, which has researchers heading for the Ice Base, said: “Ocean acidification is the ‘other carbon dioxide problem’. The oceans absorb about a quarter of human-made CO2. This has been limiting the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and mitigating climate change. However, the massive amounts of CO2 absorbed (about 24 millions tons every day) considerably upsets the ocean chemistry by increasing the acidity of sea water. It is certain that it will impact marine ecosystems although we do not fully understand how all marine species will cope at the levels of acidity projected later in this century”.

The Catlin Arctic Survey 2010 will also see leading Arctic explorers Ann Daniels, Martin Hartley and Charlie Paton extending the reach of the research far across the floating sea ice on a 500-kilometre trek northwards to capture additional scientific data. The Explorer Team’s survey programme will include taking ice thickness measurements for sea ice modellers and samples of water taken from beneath the ice for the CO2 and acidification programme.

In 2009 Hadow, Daniels and Hartley trekked nearly 450 kilometres during the first Catlin Arctic Survey, taking measurements of the floating sea ice. The data collected by the explorers was subsequently cited by University of Cambridge researchers as further evidence to support of an emerging consensus that the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free during summers within 20 years.

Daniels, who has already begun final preparations in northern Canada, says her Explorer Team’s Arctic skills enable them to operate in locations where it would be unsafe for scientists to work. “It is unimaginably tough surviving and travelling on the floating sea ice. But as experienced surface explorers, we know what to do. The drilling work will produce more measurements of the sea ice thickness, continuing the work we began last year. The ocean water samples we take will be stored and returned for analysis for the acidification programme.”

The academic institutions participating in the Catlin Arctic Survey 2010 include CNRS-Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Laboratoire Oceanographie (Villefranche), Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Institute of Ocean Science, (Fisheries and Oceans Canada), University of Exeter and Bangor University. An international group of scientists based in Europe, Canada and the USA will be able to use the results of the field studies.

One of the scientists heading to the Ice Base, Dr. Helen Findlay of Plymouth Marine Laboratory, said: “I’ve been to the Arctic before, although not in winter, and it’s a challenging place to carry out science. But, it is worth the effort to get first hand, unique and important data that will help us understand changes in Arctic seas and how they may link to global systems. I am really looking forward to returning on this expedition, with an international team to find answers to the challenges faced by our oceans.”

Catlin Group Limited, the international specialty insurer and reinsurer, is sponsoring the Catlin Arctic Survey to allow scientists to obtain data that can be used to forecast the risk posed by our changing environment.

“What motivates me in my work with Catlin Arctic Survey is the vulnerability of the Arctic Ocean,” said Pen Hadow, who is director of the Survey. “We know that disappearing ice cover and potential impacts of acidity are parts of some big ocean changes. Since it is widely viewed as a bellwether for wider global change, it is important we understand better what is happening.”

Hadow described the Survey as an example of modern exploration: “Our aim at the Catlin Arctic Survey is to make it possible for science work to be undertaken that would otherwise be exceptionally difficult to do. The scientists will be able to work safely thanks to the skills of our polar support team who will be guiding them out onto the floating sea ice. Our Ice Base will have all the facilities they need to conduct analysis and to survive in the extreme conditions of an Arctic winter and spring.”

Rod Macrae Tel: +44 781 402 9819 – Email: rod@catlinarcticsurvey.com
Jackie Pedersen Tel: +44 798 076 7710 – Email: jackie@catlinarcticsurvey.com


Interviews with Press Event participants can be arranged. Explorers Ann Daniels, Martin Hartley and Charlie Paton are available for interview by phone from Resolute, Canada.


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Catlin is the title sponsor for Catlin Arctic Survey. Catlin Group Limited is an international speciality insurers and reinsurer. Catlin operates six underwriting hubs — London, Bermuda, US, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Canada — which allows it to provide innovative risk management solutions and superior levels of service to clients and their brokers worldwide. Catlin is the principal sponsor of the Catlin Arctic Survey, which aims to produce scientific data to increase our knowledge about the impact of climate change and other changes to the environment.

Arctic Survey was originated by explorer Pen Hadow, and is now managed and delivered by Geo Mission Ltd. Founded in 2009 by Pen Hadow, Geo Mission’s objective is to advance scientific and public understanding of the natural world. It achieves this by bringing together scientists, explorers and academics to collaborate on pioneering research programmes which are communicated to specialist and global audiences.

CATLIN arctic survey, 25 February 2010. More information.

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