MOSAiC Monday - May 18, 2020

MoMOA This week's Museum of MOSAiC Art Challenge: Create a sea ice design!

Submit your designs to be displayed in a MoMOA Virtual Gallery

Educators: Spots are filling up! Register now for MOSAiC expedition virtual teacher workshops this summer

Bring the unprecedented science and adventure of the 2019-2020 MOSAiC expedition into your classroom with new middle and high school curricula developed by the education and outreach team at the University of Colorado Boulder. We are offering two different teacher workshops in June 2020, which will be facilitated virtually by MOSAiC scientists and the curriculum developers. Participants will engage with immersive 360° virtual expeditions, authentic real-time Arctic datasets, and App-based labs in these two-day online teacher workshops. Registration is free, and participants will earn 10 continuing education hours with the option of also receiving graduate credit from CU boulder.

Learn more about and register for the MOSAiC virtual workshops for teachers


Surrounded by Sea Ice



Sea ice


The RV Polarstern has been surrounded by sea ice for over six months now, drifting across the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice—frozen ocean water that floats at the ocean's surface—is a defining feature of the Arctic and a central focus of MOSAiC. Finding the perfect ice floe to anchor the Polarstern to was one of the crucial first goals of the expedition. Sea ice serves as a habitat for various Arctic flora and fauna, it provides access to crucial hunting and fishing grounds for Arctic indigenous communities, and it plays a key role in the Arctic and global climate systems. Sea ice comes in various forms and can be quite dynamic - wind and ocean currents move sea ice around the Arctic Ocean basin, and ice in motion can lead to the formation of ice ridges or the opening of leads (cracks). This week, we're exploring what makes sea ice cool (pun intended). 


Icelights: Your burning questions about ice & climate

Photo credit: Esther Horvath



Sea ice life cycle

Did you know that plants and animals aren't the only things that go through life cycles (think of caterpillar to butterfly)? Arctic sea ice does too! As sea ice freezes, it goes through various forms and stages before it becomes what we call 'sheet ice'. There are two different pathways sea ice can take on its journey to becoming sheet ice, and these pathways depend on whether it is forming in calm or rough seas. In both pathways, as ocean water begins to freeze it first forms needle-like ice crystals called frazil ice. 


Sea ice life cycle

Ice Formation in Calm Seas

If the ocean is calm, frazil ice crystals turn into a smooth, thin form of ice called grease ice, which then develops into a continuous thin sheet of ice called nilas. Rafting occurs when light winds push the nilas around and cause them to slide over one another. Nilas ice eventually thickens into congelation ice, which eventually becomes smooth-bottomed sheet ice.

Ice Formation in Rough Seas

If winds are blowing and the seas are rough, frazil ice accumulates into slushy circles called pancake ice. Pieces of pancake ice can raft like the nilas, or if thick enough they can form ridges. Eventually, pancake ice cements together into sheet ice, but in this case, the sheet ice is rough underneath. 


Learn more about sea ice formation

What do these different kinds of ice look like? Browse pictures of them in the Sea Ice Life Cycle Gallery


30-min clock icon Learning at Home: The Writing's in the Ice

Take a look at the series of photos below taken by a MOSAiC team member who was on board the Akademic Fedorov, the Russian supply ship that went out with the Polarstern on Leg 1 of the expedition to help set up the Distributed Network. The photos were taken at various points in the Fedorov's journey from Tromsø, Norway out to the edge of the Arctic sea ice, but they are not shown in chronological order. Imagine you are the MOSAiC team member who took these photos. Write a series of short journal entries (one for each photo) describing your voyage out into the Arctic. What is the order in which you took each of these photos? What were the sea conditions like when you took each of these photos? What kind of ice do you see? How warm or cold is the air temperature? What other things might you be seeing (wildlife, etc.)?  (Hint: Check out the Sea Ice Life Cycle Gallery linked to above for photos of ice in its various stages of formation.) Photo credits: Anne Gold


Sea ice photo from the Fedorov   Sea ice photo and polar bears from the Fedorov   Sea ice photo from the Fedorov   Fedorov in ice   Looking over the deck of the Fedorov   Sea ice photo from the Fedorov



Want to know more about how sea ice forms?

Watch MOSAiC sea ice scientist Melinda Webster explain in this video, How Sea Ice is Made:


#askmosaic#askmosaic: Breaking the Ice

This question was submitted by Everett and Emmett from Double Eagle Elementary School in Albuquerque: How does the ship break the ice?

Icebreaker bow

Great question! Icebreaker ships come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and abilities, but they are all designed to navigate to some degree through ice-covered waters, like the Arctic Ocean. Icebreaker ships have three distinct characteristics that make them different from other ships: 1) A strengthened hull, or ship body, 2) A unique rounded body and spoon-shaped bow (front), and 3) LOTS of power. What do you think the purpose of each of these characteristics is?

Polarstern moving through ice

Icebreakers like the RV Polarstern shown in the photo on the left (credit: Stefan Hendricks) can break through sea ice in a couple different ways. The main way an icebreaker breaks ice is by riding up onto the ice and crushing it using its weight and gravity—the spoon-shaped bow makes this possible, shown in the drawings on the right (credit: Yamaguchi et a.l, 1997). But icebreakers often also have the ability to ram sea ice straight on, which can be a useful tactic for breaking particularly thick ice.


The Polarstern can break through ice up to 1.5-meters thick no problem by crushing it, and it can break ice up to 3-meters thick using the ramming technique. You might recall that the Russian supply ship Akademik Fedorov which sailed out with the Polarstern at the beginning of the MOSAiC expedition to help set up the Distributed Network of instruments nearly got stuck in the ice on its journey back to Norwary. Although it has a strengthened hull, the Fedorov is not actually a true icebreaker, and thus had to ram the ice nearly 70 times to break free!

Read more: How not to get stuck in the Arctic sea ice


Watch this video to see how an icebreaker breaks through ice:


Send us your #askmosaic questions!

Color the Polarstern

Fun At Home: Color the Polarstern!

Need a calming and fun activity to do while you're at home? We invite you to color the Polarstern! Artist Richard Yeomans created this drawing of the Polarstern for the Alfred Wegener Institute, and now we're giving it to you. Click on the picture to download and print a larger version. If you like, send us your completed masterpieces to be showcased in the Museum of MOSAiC Art!


Submit your artwork to the Museum of MOSAiC Art


Remote learning resources This week's featured remote learning resources

A new webinar series: INTERACT Stories of Arctic Science and Stations

Join Tuesday afternoons at 14:00-15:00 CEST to hear captivating stories about Arctic research stations and science done at them with support from INTERACT Trans-National Access! Each webinar consists of two 30 min popular science presentations, and they are open for anyone to attend.

Learn more and attend a webinar


Check out our full list of virtual and at-home polar learning resources here!



10-minute clock icon MOSAiC Weekly Tracking

Plot the Polarstern

Each week we will provide you with the latitude and longitude coordinates of the Polarstern so that you can track its journey across the Arctic.

Download the map to plot coordinates

Download a larger map of the Arctic for a bigger picture view of the expedition area

Location of the Polarstern
 Date  Latitude  Longitude
 September 16, 2019  69.68 N  18.99 E
 September 23, 2019  72.31 N  26.93 E
 September 30, 2019  85.12 N  138.05 E
 October 4, 2019**  85.08 N  134.43 E
 October 7, 2019  85.10 N  133.82 E
 October 14, 2019  84.85 N  135.03 E
 October 21, 2019  84.97 N  132.73 E
 October 28, 2019  85.47 N  127.07 E
 November 4, 2019  85.88 N  121.70 E
 November 11, 2019  85.82 N  116.00 E
 November 18, 2019  86.05 N  122.43 E
 November 25, 2019  85.85 N  121.35 E
 December 2, 2019  85.97 N  112.95 E
 December 9, 2019  86.25 N  121.40 E
 December 16, 2019  86.62 N  118.12 E
 December 23, 2019  86.63 N  113.20 E
 December 30, 2019  86.58 N  117.13 E
 January 6, 2020  87.10 N  115.10 E
 January 13, 2020  87.35 N  106.63 E
 January 20, 2020  87.42 N  97.77 E
 January 27, 2020  87.43 N  95.82 E
 February 3, 2020  87.42 N  93.65 E
 February 10, 2020  87.78 N  91.52 E
 February 17, 2020  88.07 N  78.52 E
 February 24, 2020  88.58 N  52.87 E
 March 2, 2020  88.17 N  31.02 E
 March 9, 2020  87.93 N  24.20 E
 March 16, 2020  86.87 N  12.70 E
 March 23, 2020  86.20 N  15.78 E
 March 30, 2020  85.37 N  13.27 E
 April 6, 2020  84.52 N  14.38 E
 April 13, 2020  84.28 N  14.97 E
 April 20, 2020  84.52 N  14.57 E
 April 27, 2020  83.93 N  15.65 E
 May 4, 2020  83.92 N  18.03 E
 May 11, 2020  83.47 N  13.08 E
 May 18, 2020  83.32 N  8.68 E

 **Day when MOSAiC reached the ice floe that the Polarstern will become frozen in and drift with for the next year.

Log MOSAiC Data 

What happens in the Arctic as the seasons change? Find out firsthand with real-time Arctic data, provided for you here each week. 

Keep track of Arctic conditions over the course of the expedition:

Download Data Logbook for Sept. 2019 - Dec. 2019

Download Data Logbook for Dec. 2019 - Mar. 2020

Download Data Logbook for Mar. 2020 - June 2020

 Date  Length of day (hrs)  Air temperature (deg C) at location of Polarstern  Arctic Sea Ice Extent (million km2)
 September 16, 2019  13.25  High: 10   Low: 4.4  3.9
 September 23, 2019  12.35  High: 6     Low: -1  4.1
 September 30, 2019  9.1  -4.7  4.4
 October 4, 2019**  6.27  -13.0  4.5
 October 7, 2019  3.05  -8.2  4.6
 October 14, 2019  0  -14.7  4.8
 October 21, 2019  0  -12.8  5.4
 October 28, 2019  0  -18.3  6.8
 November 4, 2019  0  -18.9  8.0
 November 11, 2019  0  -25.5  8.7
 November 18, 2019  0  -10.7  9.3
 November 25, 2019  0  -18.4  10.0
 December 2, 2019  0  -26.6  10.4
 December 9, 2019  0  -23.1  11.2
 December 16, 2019  0  -19.2  11.8
 December 23, 2019  0  -26.9   12.2
 December 30, 2019  0  -26.4   12.6
 January 6, 2020  0  -28.0  13.0
 January 13, 2020  0  -30.7  13.1
 January 20, 2020  0  -27.1  13.6
 January 27, 2020  0  -22.5  13.8
 February 3, 2020  0  -28.8  14.1
 February 10, 2020  0  -26.2  14.5
 February 17, 2020  0  -31.9  14.4
 February 24, 2020  0  -24.0  14.6
 March 2, 2020  0  -35.5  14.8
 March 9, 2020  0  -37.9  14.7
 March 16, 2020  10.5  -27.5  14.7
 March 23, 2020  16.5  -28.7  14.4
 March 30, 2020  24  -28.6  14.0
 April 6, 2020  24  -18.2  13.7
 April 13, 2020  24  -25.8  13.6
 April 20, 2020  24  -10.2  13.3
 April 27, 2020  24  -11.7  12.8
 May 4, 2020  24  -16.2  12.8
 May 11, 2020  24  -10.4  12.4
 May 18, 2020  24  -5.1  11.7

*Note: We expect data to fall within the following ranges: Length of day, 0-24 hours; Temperature, -40 to 14 degrees C; Sea ice extent, 3-15 million km2

**Day when MOSAiC reached the ice floe that the Polarstern will become frozen in and drift with for the next year.

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Next Week
  • What does it mean for sea ice to be 'old' or 'young'?
  • Check in with the Polarstern