The Nansen Legacy Project Blog

Heat exchange between the "warm" seawater and the cold air creates fog around RV Kronprins Haakon on its voyage in the northern Barents Sea.
Heat exchange between the "warm" seawater and the cold air creates fog around RV Kronprins Haakon on its voyage in the northern Barents Sea.

The heat

Published

The heat, that’s what we’re after, that’s why we keep going back to the continental shelf and slope north of Svalbard. Right now, we sit at 81.5 N, 24E, and for the first time since we entered the sea ice south of Svalbard, we are back in open water. Instead of in ice, we sit in a sea of sea fog – a result of warm water! Not that you notice any of the heat when you’re out on deck, it’s -15 degrees in the air and blowing a freezing cold wind.

When I write “warm water”, it’s all relative. The past few days in the ice, the surface water temperature was at or close to the freezing point of seawater, -1.8 deg C. Now, it’s +1.1 deg C. That might seem pretty cold, but it is a sign of the underlying warmer water that comes from the Atlantic and brings a lot of heat into the Arctic. Here, north of Svalbard, it is still at or close to the surface. The air is cold enough that one could think that the sea should freeze. But the current is bringing plenty of the warm Atlantic water preventing ice to form and thus leaving us with open water and these beautiful patterns of heat exchange from the ocean to the atmosphere.

The open water has another effect: It suddenly seems even darker than before. During the past week, we got used to the sea ice reflecting a fair bit of the light from the ship, both from the big beams and from the lights on deck. Now, however, it seems like the ocean is swallowing all light and everything around us remains black. That makes capturing anything of the surroundings on photos even harder than before...

Meanwhile, without the ice as a barrier, the wind can again create some waves which leads to more movement of the ship and makes it trickier to get the moorings back on deck. While I sit here in the cosy warm office and write this blog post, the crew and the engineers have recovered yet another mooring – hats off to all people on deck working hard in truly Arctic conditions!

The northern Barents Sea "steams" as heat from the warmer sea is transferred to the colder air. (Video: Angelika Renner)

Welcome to a journey through the Arctic!

This blog is writtten by researchers and participants linked to The Nansen Legacy Project.
They will share their experiences and knowledge from research cruises in the Barents Sea.
The research vessel F/F «Kronprins Haakon» gives unique opportunities to explore the rapidly changing climate and ecosystems in the Arctic.
To ensure a sustainable management of the Northern Barents Sea and the adjacent Arctic Basin throughout the 21st century a new knowledge base is required.

(Top picture: Christian Morel / www.christianmorel.net / The Nansen Legacy)