When and where will measurements be conducted?
The HALO research aircraft will be based in Kiruna, Sweden, from 11 March to 15 April 2022. The Polar 5 and Polar 6 polar aircraft will operate out of Longyearbyen, Svalbard, between 19 March and 13 April 2022. The aircraft measurements will focus on an area in the northern Arctic Ocean, in the Fram Strait, and around Svalbard (78 degrees north, 16 degrees east). Balloon measurements at the AWIPEV station are also planned over an additional period of approximately eight weeks between mid-March and mid-May 2022.
Who are the partners involved?
HALO-(AC)3 is a joint research campaign by Leipzig University, the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research, the Max Planck Institutes for Meteorology and Chemistry, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and the universities of Bremen, Hamburg, Cologne and Mainz, together with international partners. More than 100 scientists from 12 countries will take part in this research project. HALO-(AC)3 combines the research on “Arctic Amplification” within the priority program on the scientific use of HALO and the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre (AC)3 (ArctiC Amplification: Climate Relevant Atmospheric and SurfaCe Processes and Feedback Mechanisms). Both of these major projects are funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; DFG).
Alarming observations from current HALO flights
Since 12 March 2022, HALO already performed a series of very successful research flights from Kiruna over the Norwegian and the Greenland Sea as well as the Fram Strait to the North Pole. A massive warm air intrusion into the Arctic has been investigated and so far, several unusual phenomena have been observed during these flights, for example, heavy rain over sea ice. This might have serious implications on a possible early melting of the sea ice, and this in the mid of March. Furthermore, massive clouds have been observed, reaching almost as high as in the tropics. Surface temperatures in the Fram Strait have been more than 20 degrees Celsius higher during the current flights than expected from the long-term records. It is not just the intensity of the currently observed warm air intrusion, but also the duration, which seems unusual.
During Tuesday and Wednesday of this week further moisture transport into the Arctic has been observed, which is called "Atmospheric River", likely causing record precipitation and even more warming of the entire Arctic. There are indications from forecast products that the sea ice will be seriously disturbed by this massive warming event. The scientists on site are truly excited to witness further major events and hope to be able to follow them further on in the days to come. As the polar aircraft will arrive at Svalbard on 18 March 2022 coordinated measurement flights could then be all the more valuable to better understand the complexities of these events.
The High Altitude and Long Range (HALO) research aircraft is a joint initiative of German environmental and climate research institutions. HALO is supported by grants from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Research Foundation (DFG), the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Max Planck Society (MPG), the Leibniz Association, the Free State of Bavaria, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the Forschungszentrum Jülich and the German Aerospace Center (DLR).
About Polar 5 and Polar 6
The Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) conducts research in often inaccessible, ice-covered areas of the Arctic and Antarctic. Research aircraft are absolutely indispensable for carrying out such work. The two Basler BT-67 aircraft, Polar 5 and Polar 6, are specially equipped for flights in the extreme environmental conditions of the polar regions. The planes can take off and land on hard runways, unmade airstrips and snowbound surfaces, using a combined undercarriage fitted with both wheels and skis. De-icing systems, heating elements for the batteries and engines, and advanced navigation systems can even allow them to fly blind and perform landings in very difficult weather conditions and at temperatures as low as minus 54 degrees Celsius.