Climate change forces cancellation of Arctic climate change study

Heavy ice cover is causing a delay in a climate change study.
Heavy ice cover is causing a delay in a climate change study.

The first leg of an Arctic climate change study in the Hudson Bay is being canceled — because climate change has made sea ice conditions too perilous off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada.

The Hudson Bay System Study, known as BaySys, is a collaboration between 40 scientists at five universities in Canada. The ship used for the expedition, Canadian Research Icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, is now needed to help other boats in need of search and rescue help.

“Considering the severe ice conditions and the increasing demand for Search And Rescue operations (SAR) and ice escort, we decided to cancel the BaySys mission,” said Dr. David Barber, the expedition’s chief scientist and scientific lead. “A second week of delay meant our research objectives just could not be safely achieved – the challenge for us all was that the marine ice hazards were exceedingly difficult for the maritime industry, the [Canadian Cost Guard], and science.”

The project, led by the University of Manitoba, is scheduled to take four years and costs $17 million. The trip started May 25 in Quebec City and was going to depart six days ahead of schedule on its next leg so the Canadian Coast Guard could carry out “critical marine safety and security operations” ahead of the scientific mission.

Barber said much of the uncharacteristically abundant sea ice in the area comes from the High Arctic. Some of the chunks, loosened by global warming, were measured by his team at up to eight meters thick.

“Climate-related changes in Arctic sea ice not only reduce its extent and thickness but also increase its mobility, meaning that ice conditions are likely to become more variable and severe conditions such as these will occur more often,” Barber said.

The project is expected to be able to continue with its next leg of the 133-day expedition on July 6.