After over 30 days of navigation, the third Chinese Arctic expedition team has arrived in the Canada Basin of the Arctic Ocean, an area where multi-year sea ice cover is normally seen.
Satellite data received by China's icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, suggests that the sea ice cover in the region has been retreating rapidly in the past few days. Its melting speed is faster than anticipated and the ice concentration has decreased from 90 percent to 60 percent within a week.
A file photo of China's icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon
"This is an extremely interesting area, which draws a lot of attention from scientists all over the world to figure out why and how such changes have occurred," said Cheng Bin, a senior scientist with the Finnish Institute of Marine Research.
"China's expedition will probably provide critical in situ measurements for better understanding of the changes in sea ice cover in the region," he said.
The Chinese expedition team is now making various measurements with respect to the oceanography, biology, bio-chemistry, geology, meteorology and sea ice physics of the area.
The team has established a communication network with European, US,Canadian and Japanese scientists to help Xuelong smoothly navigate the icy Arctic Ocean by exchanging satellite images, in situ survey reports and Arctic Sea ice outlooks.
"This expedition will serve as a bridge to connect scientists across the world in investigating various changes in the Arctic Ocean. It will definitely be a key contribution from the Chinese polar research community to the International Polar Year (IPY)," Cheng said.
According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), Arctic sea ice covered a total area of 4.3 million square km in September 2007, a historical low and sharp shrinkage from the average 7.5 million square km before 2000.
(Xinhua News Agency August 16, 2008)