The Republic of China insignia can for the first time be seen in the Arctic Ocean following the deployment of eight drifting buoys developed by Taiwanese scientists to research the effect of waves on melting sea ice.
The drifting buoys developed by National Central University (NCU) and the National Academy of Marine Research were released in the Fram Strait between Norway’s Svalbard archipelago and Greenland on Aug. 28 in collaboration with Poland’s Nicolaus Copernicus University.
They are to float north over the next three to four months collecting data on sea temperature, waves and other conditions that are to be transmitted back to researchers via satellite.
Photo courtesy of Krzysztof Maria Rozanski of Christian Theological Academy in Warsaw
According to initial observations, surface sea temperatures are between 7°C and 7.5°C, up from the August average last year of 6.75°C to 6.9°C measured by satellite.
Climate change is resulting in the disappearance of polar sea ice, NCU said on Thursday last week.
Satellite observations show that sea ice in the Arctic Circle is disappearing faster than anticipated, it said.
The discrepancy is believed to be related to ocean waves breaking ice sheets into smaller pieces and its resultant effect on the depth of the upper ocean, but there is not yet enough field data to confirm the theory, it added.
Arctic sea ice reflects sunlight and heat energy, playing an important role in regulating the Earth’s temperature, academy president Chiu Yung-fang (邱永芳) said, adding that without the ice, this energy would be absorbed into the oceans, causing temperatures to rise.
The buoys, originally developed by the academy and NCU’s College of Earth Sciences to study cyclone formation, are now floating 10km apart in a square formation toward the perennial sea ice at a speed of 1 knot (1.9kph), the university said.
For three to four months, the devices aboard the buoys are to monitor the heat flux of the North Atlantic warm current as it flows into the Arctic and coastal states, the university added.
The middle of September is when the Arctic ice sheet is the smallest, after which it begins to freeze again, NCU Graduate Institute of Hydrological and Oceanic Sciences associate professor Chien Hwa (錢樺) said.
As the sea temperature falls, the buoys’ formation is to gradually change, allowing researchers to estimate heat transfer and diffusion, and thereby the effects of the waves on ice melt, Chien said.
When the buoys were released, white-beaked dolphins were seen nearby, he said.
As disappearing sea ice attracts more of the dolphins to the area, polar bears are beginning to hunt them in an indication of the ecological changes already occurring, he added.
Additional reporting by Hung Ting-hung
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