The Arctic ice cap has visibly decreased over the past thirty years. Its surface in late summer has decreased by 40% and its average thickness of 50%; from 3 m to 1.5 m. The summer sea ice could disappear completely by 2030 and this disappearance will have drastic implications on the overall global climate. The current climate prediction models are unable to explain this acceleration in the process, even if the most advanced satellite technology is used. Thus, it seems urgent to put the sea ice under close surveillance, as several international research programs are currently doing using sophisticated equipment: icebreakers, drifting stations, automatic buoys.
Sébastien Roubinet’s ice catamaran (16 feet, 441 pounds ...) may seem meager compared to the current equipment employed in the North. But this is precisely its advantage: thanks to its light-weightiness and lack of mechanical propulsion, it will cross the Arctic Ocean like a dragonfly skimming the water, without disturbing the environment. As a hybrid vehicle that can travel across water and ice, it is a first-choice observation platform able to provide unique data. The drawback is that there is only space on board for light scientific equipment which consumes little solar energy.
For scientists, it is an exciting technological challenge: Sébastien and Rodolphe will have an electromagnetic sounder on board that will continuously measure the thickness of sea ice under the catamaran and an automatic weather station. In addition, they will make video recordings of the sea ice. These observations will contribute to calibrating the ice thickness data registered ??by the new satellite CryoSat II, which was launched in spring 2010 and will be fully operational in summer 2011 during the expedition.
Hervé Le Goff,
CNRS Research engineer at LOCEAN (Laboratory of Oceanography and Climate, Paris, France), he works on the Arctic climatology. Among other experiences, he wintered aboard the polar schooner “Tara” adrift on the sea ice between 2006 and 2008 for the European program DAMOCLES. For the "La voie du pôle”, he is responsible of the project scientific coordination and of technological developments.
CNRS researcher at LOCEAN, he developed an automatic drifting buoy which, when set up on the ice, will continuously measures the parameters of the sub-glacial ocean, of the ice surface and the weather at the surface, in order to achieve energy balances . The instruments on board the ice catamaran and the scientific objectives are similar, so discussions are conducted in common.
CNRS researcher at LATMOS (Laboratory Atmospheres, Media, spatial Observations, Guyancourt, France) is a specialist in satellite altimetry and works on CRYOSAT data.
University of Alberta, Dpt of Earth and Atmospheric Science, Canada
Professor-researcher at the University of Alberta in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Canada. He is a world-renowned specialist of issues regarding sea ice (Arctic and Antarctic). He has developed techniques for measuring the ice thickness by electromagnetic sounding from different platforms: sled, hovercraft and helicopter.
He is our technical and scientific advisor for the implementation of the measurement technique used on the catamaran. As head of the "Arctic sea ice" in the CRYOSAT consortium, he will participate in our data analysis for the validation of CryoSat-2 satellite measurements.