Expedition 2019 Diaries

Day 15. Barents Sea Ice Operation

Day 15. Barents Sea Ice Operation

The project «Ice Operations» (2017 to 2020) supported by Colarctic unites Norwegian Research Institute, Northern (Arctic) Federal University, Association of Suppliers of Oil and Gas “Sozvezdie”, Luleo Technological University, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Maritime Forum Nord (Norway) and Storvik & Co OY (Finland). Dmitry Kovalev, leading engineer of NArFU High School of Informational Technologies and Automated Systems, observes ice in the Barents Sea.

- Our Norwegian colleagues had doubts that we would see ice in the Barents Sea in this period. – Dmitry says. – But as you remember, we went through an ice floe.

Barents Sea is the main of the Arctic seas that does not freeze. That is why it is so important to study ice drifting in order to provide safe navigation. Besides ships, there are also oil and gas platforms that can be damaged by ice.

- Icebergs used to be rare in the Barents Sea but their number has increased because of global warming. – Says Dmitry. – We have seen quite a large iceberg; the visible part of it was bigger than Professor Molchanov.

Professor Molchanov went through the ice as thick as 80 to 150 cm. it was classed 6 on the 10-grade scale (from 0 which is absence of ice to 10 which is compact ice floe).

Collision with an iceberg is checking how well the vessel and its equipment were designed and built. When I ask Dmitry why it is so important to make full-scale observations if there are satellite images, Dmitry replies:

- Full-scale observations permit to evaluate ice thickness, see how ice looks, if it has any foreign objects.

Ice hummocks are another source of risk. They show if ice has been freezing or melting, if it is old or new, if it was brought from the Arctic Ocean.

Dmitry employs a special method for the description of ice and preparing ice maps. It was elaborated in the Soviet Union by Roshydromet: aerial photographs are compiled in one big map.

Dmitry observes ice 200 meters around the vessel. In the next expedition he plans to equip Professor Molchanov with a special radar that will register ice all along the itinerary.

- Why are satellite images not enough?

- Norwegian images showed ice to the north and northeast. But we met ice on the northwest. Furthermore, we can fail to see icebergs on satellite images or it can be difficult to calculate their number.

After the expedition, Dmitry is going to compare satellite data with his own observations. He uses data received from the Sentinelle-1 satellite. These images do not always permit to define if ice is old or new, or if what we observe is ice. For example, open ice will look on a satellite image just like water.

Ice Operation is aimed at the elaboration of complex Barents Sea model. It will permit to enforce nature protection, reduce the risk of oil spills, accidents and emergencies.

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Updated 26.08.2019