Arctic explorers Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley have three days' food left on half rations as they wait for a supply plane.They are in the Arctic to... well, there are slightly different versions of why they're there.
They are uncomfortable but safe after poor weather halted resupply plans.
The severe weather is jeopardizing a journey aimed at projecting when global warming may melt the entire Arctic Ocean cap, a phenomenon that scientists say might trigger further gains in temperature.The new radar sounds impressive, but far more so is the fact they have a new technique, apparently, that allows them to determine rate of change from a single measurement.
Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley are 18 days into their 100-day, 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) journey to the pole, during which they planned to use a custom radar to take as many as 13 million ice-thickness measurements. They aim to help scientists gauge how quickly the Arctic sea ice is thinning.
Previous estimates of melting have been based on less reliable depth soundings made by satellites and submarines, which can’t distinguish ice from snow. Scientists have made few surface measurements that are highly accurate because of difficulties in traveling on the ice cap.
Hadow's own website does little to disabuse us of this idea:
In February 2009, Pen will embark on what will probably become the most high profile expedition of recent times – the Catlin Arctic Survey. Using ground-breaking* technology, Pen plans to make the first accurate measurements of the true thickness of the Arctic Ice Cap, something that satellites and submarines are unable to do.The BBC makes a little more sense:
Working with some of the foremost scientific bodies in the world, including NASA, the WWF, the European Space Agency (ESA), the UK Met Office, and the University of Cambridge, the Catlin Arctic Survey’s data will help define the likely meltdown date of the ice cap, vital in helping plan for the inevitable geo-political consequences.
Mr Hadow, 46, Mrs Daniels, 44, and Mr Hartley, 40, will attempt to get base figures from which to measure changes in the thickness of the ice.Base figures. So before they can be any use there'd have to be a further expedition.
Let's wish Hadow luck in this important work, and hope the supply aircraft gets through the unexpected Arctic blizzards in time to help measure the expected warming.
* Brave folk, to use such equipment on an ice cap.