Beyond coronavirus – what’s in store for science in the year ahead?

The past year was dominated by a virus whose name we all kow very well. It made us to stay home, caused delays and cancellations, and moved much of our activity into the digital universe. Some of our community have met it up close and personal.

How does it affect the science? Dr Polona Itkin, a sea ice researcher at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, says she expects 2021 to be a year of Arctic science breakthroughs – or at least laying the foundations for them: “Crunching the data from the MOSAiC polar expedition will lead to Arctic science breakthroughs”.

Dr Polona Itkin on polar bear lookout on 20 January while her team takes snow samples. Image credit – Alfred Wegener Institute / Folke Mehrtens

Exactly 1 year ago, Polona was joining he largest modern polar expedition ever, the MOSAiC expedition of the German icebreaker R/V Polarstern that was frozen in the Arctic ice for a full sea ice cycle. From the ship, she spoke to journalist Annette Ekin about working through the polar night in the middle of the frozen Arctic Ocean, daily life on board, and her vision of how the new data will leave their traces in science. Some of the breakthroughs she expects to see include observing and modelling sea ice formation at the smallest scales – from several hundred metres to a metre. She also expects a better understanding of what snow does to sea ice growth and thickness and how pressure ridges consolidate and grow.

Read the full article featured by Horizon The EU Research & Innovation Magazine, and get an impression about a day on the Polarstern: studying climate change up close.

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