Scientists send robots to study melting glacier

18th August, 2021.      //   Climate Change  // 

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Scientists from Scotland and Norway are sending robots to the face of a melting glacier to collect samples.

The task is too risky for people to undertake because of the possibility of enormous pieces of ice breaking off and crashing on them (a process known as calving).

The Kronebreen glacier in Kongsfjorden, Norway’s high Arctic, is being studied by the team.

As the ice melts, the robots, which include an autonomous boat, a submersible, and drones, are employed to measure freshwater run-off.

They’re also looking at how the freshwater mixes with the saltier seawater from the North Atlantic as it enters the fjord.

The research is being carried out in collaboration with the Scottish Association for Marine Science (Sams) in Oban, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, the Norwegian Polar Institute, and the University Centre on Svalbard.

“Fjords are the connection between the changing ocean and our rapidly melting northern glaciers,” stated lead scientist Prof Finlo Cottier of Sams.

“The transfer of heat and water at these points, often just a few kilometres wide, are therefore extremely important in understanding how climate change is impacting our ocean.”

‘Hostile and remote environment’ 

“We need to know much more about the fresh water coming into the ocean: How much is there? Where does it end up? How does it move?”

Prof. Cottier stated that going into “such a hostile and isolated environment with a boat” was too risky for scientists.

He continued, “Not only is there a risk of falling ice, but large-scale calving causes huge waves, so it is a dangerous place.

“That is where the robotic systems come into their own, working at the front line of Arctic science.”

The scientific mission will last seven days.