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An international team of researchers called off their planned trip to study the effects of climate change on Hudson Bay when the ship they were travelling on was summoned to help rescue vessels from the effects of climate change.
OUT OF THIS WORLD | What's Up In Climate Change - a glance at the most important news about our warming world

Go figure: Climate change cancels climate research trip


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Tuesday, June 13, 2017, 1:16 - An international team of researchers called off their planned trip to study the effects of climate change on Hudson Bay when the ship they were traveling on was summoned to help rescue vessels from the effects of climate change.

The changes to our warming world are coming on so quickly now that researchers are having trouble conducting the research into how it is changing.

According to a CBC News article from Monday, BaySys, a climate research expedition from Quebec City to Hudson Bay, on board the Canadian Research Icebreaker CCSG Amundsen, was forced to cancel their plans when the ship was called to perform search and rescue operations in the Strait of Belle Isle, between Labrador and the island of Newfoundland.

"The requirements for search and rescue trumped the requirements for science," Dr. David Barber, the University of Manitoba climate scientist who was leading of the expedition, told CBC News. "The search and rescue calls were coming in quite fast and furious."

"We never had any issues in the past of this nature," Julie Gascon, the Canadian Coast Guard's Assistant Commissioner for the Central and Arctic Region, said in the CBC article. "It was just extreme ice conditions that required everything that we've got in order to make sure we were able to provide the services."

While the CCSG Amundsen conducted its search and rescue operations, the roughly 40 climate scientists on board used the instruments they had with them to study the ice in the Strait of Belle Isle, and they found something unusual.

The chunks of ice they encountered were not of the thin, one-year ice that is usually seen in the Strait at this time of year. Instead, it was multi-year ice, between 6-8 metres thick [20-26 feet], of the kind that usually stays locked up in between the northern islands of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, and in the waters of the Arctic Ocean to the north of those islands.


Multi-year and seasonal ice extent, for March 2016 and March 2017. Credit: NSIDC/University of Colorado/Tschudi/Fowler/Maslanik/Stewart/Meier

Seeing this multi-year ice as far south as the Strait is a sign that the warming Arctic waters are breaking up this thicker ice, allowing it to become more mobile. Thus, it floats away from the high Arctic and into more southern waters.

"This is the first time we've actually seen ice from the High Arctic," Barber told CBC News.

What is "multi-year" sea ice?

In the Arctic and in the Antarctic, there are two kinds of sea ice. 

First, there's the thin kind that acts in a seasonal role, freezing solid in the colder months of the year and then melting back to water in the warmer months.

Second, there's the thicker, multi-year kind, which builds upon any ice that's still around from previous years, including any of the seasonal ice that might survive the last seasonal melt.

In general, the amount of seasonal ice and multi-year ice varies from year to year, but due to climate change, scientists are seeing a marked decrease in the amount and thickness of multi-year ice.

While the BaySys scientists continue to survey the ice in the Strait of Belle Isle, the true target of their study is thousands of kilometres away.

BaySys is a four-year long, $15 million CAD project, run by the University of Manitoba, to survey the impacts of climate change on the Hudson Bay system. This particular expedition is the third of the project, so far, and was intended as a survey of the entire Bay.


Credit: University of Manitoba

According to CBC News, this isn't the end of the BaySys expedition for this year. Several scientists with the project plan to be on the Amundsen when it sets out from Churchill to Iqaluit, starting on July 6. 

Sources: CBC | Arctic Science Partnership

Related Video: Bad Ice - Vast sea ice covers Newfoundland coast, creating problems

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