In partnership with Arctic Reflections

Arctic Reflections is committed to halting the rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice, which serves as the world’s refrigerator by reflecting the sun’s heat back into space through its white ice sheets.

How Arctic Reflections Aims To Restore 100,000km2 Of Arctic Ice To Counter Global Warming

Embark on an Arctic adventure with Arctic Reflections, whose mission is to restore 100,000 km² of Arctic Sea ice to combat global warming.

In the face of climate change, the Arctic’s plight has often seemed a bleak and unstoppable decline. But where there is innovation, there is hope.

The Alarming Reality of Arctic Ice Melt

As reported by NASA, the Arctic Sea’s ice is melting at an unprecedented rate.

Arctic sea ice acts as Earth’s natural refrigerator, reflecting sunlight back into space through its white ice sheets. This phenomenon, known as the “albedo” effect, allows ice sheets to bounce off up to 90% of solar radiation, while the darker seawater reflects only 10%. However, the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice disrupts this delicate balance.

Over the past forty years, Arctic sea ice volume has decreased by a staggering 75%. This loss not only affects the Arctic region but also has global implications. Rising sea levels, altered ocean currents, and threats to species like polar bears and seals are all consequences of this melting ice.

The Dangers of Melting Arctic Ice

1. Temperatures: The Arctic and Antarctic act as the world’s refrigerator. Their white snow and ice reflect heat back into space, balancing out other regions that absorb heat. Less ice means less reflected heat, leading to more intense heat waves worldwide. But it also means more extreme winters, as the destabilized polar jet stream brings bitter cold southward.
2. Coastal Communities: Rising sea levels endanger coastal cities and small island nations, exacerbating coastal flooding and storm surges. Glacial melt from the Greenland ice sheet predicts future sea level rise, with the potential for a 20-foot increase if it melts entirely.
3. Food: Rapid ice loss causes instability in weather patterns, damaging crops critical for global food systems. Higher prices and growing crises affect vulnerable populations.
4. Shipping: As ice melts, new shipping routes open in the Arctic. While tempting for time-saving, these routes pose dangers like shipwrecks and oil spills in remote areas.
5. Wildlife: Animals dependent on sea ice for survival must adapt or perish. Polar bears, walruses, arctic foxes, and other species face threats. As they suffer, so do other species and people.
6. Permafrost: Arctic ice and permafrost store large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. If all permafrost melts, it’s equivalent to adding the CO2 emissions of all EU countries⁴.

Arctic Reflections: A Bold Mission to Restore Melting Arctic Ice

Arctic Reflections,” is a visionary initiative founded by two Dutchmen, aiming to restore the rapidly disappearing Arctic ice. They both left their well-paid jobs to pursue this moonshot project. Learn more about their rapidly growing team here.

Founders Tom Meijeraan (l) and Fonger Ypema

The Ambitious Goal of Arctic Reflections

Arctic Reflections sets out on an audacious mission: to thicken 100,000 square kilometers of Arctic ice annually over the next five decades. Their strategy? Pumping seawater onto Arctic ice during winter. With average temperatures plummeting to minus 25 degrees Celsius, the seawater quickly freezes on the surface, helping to create thicker ice sheets.

Restoring Arctic Ice: How It Works

In 2016, scientists proposed a simple solution to save the Arctic ice: increase its volume by pumping water onto the existing ice sheets. Arctic seawater, when pumped over the ice, freezes quickly due to the low Arctic atmospheric temperature. By thickening the ice during winter, Arctic Reflections aims to prevent the continued decline of summer Arctic ice.

During their field research, they used conventional pumps, which are normally used to create ice roads.

Engineering with Nature

Working with nature, rather than against it, is often the best approach for monumental projects. Arctic Reflections embraces this philosophy. Their innovative method leverages the natural freezing process, harnessing the Arctic’s extreme cold to reinforce ice sheets. It’s a harmonious collaboration between science and the environment.

“While restoring Arctic ice cannot replace the urgently needed reduction of carbon emissions, it is a crucial measure to avert the devastating feedback loops that come with Arctic sea ice loss.” – Fonger Ypma. Founder, Arctic Reflections

Involving Local Communities

Engagement with local indigenous communities is crucial for several reasons. These communities have deep knowledge of the Arctic environment and its delicate balance. Collaborating with them ensures that Arctic Reflections’ efforts align with sustainable practices and respect cultural heritage. It’s a holistic approach that recognizes the interconnectedness of ecosystems and human well-being.

Positive Results First Field Experiment Svalbar

Arctic Reflections recently conducted their first field test in Svalbard, marking a significant milestone in their mission to combat the rapid melting of Arctic ice. With temperatures averaging minus 25 degrees Celsius, the team successfully employed traditional pumps adapted for creating ice roads to pump seawater onto the ice surface. This innovative approach led to the formation of a 30-centimeter-thick ice layer within just a few days on a 10,000-square-meter surface.

Source: Image by UNIS - Arctic Technology Department

Collaborating closely with UNIS and Delft University scientists, they meticulously monitored the new ice’s albedo effect, density, temperature, and salt levels. This promising test showcases the potential of Arctic Reflections’ method to significantly thicken ice sheets during the harsh winter months, paving the way for more extensive application in the future.

Investigating Natural Salt Release in Thickened Ice

Part of the Arctic Reflections research involves studying the natural process of salt release during ice formation. When seawater freezes and sea ice forms, salt is released at the bottom of the ice through brine channels. The team is investigating whether this process also occurs when ice is thickened by pumping seawater on top of it. To explore this, they took multiple ice cores daily from thickened sites and a reference site. These cores will be analysed for salinity, density, and temperature measurements.

Ensuring the Longevity of Thickened Ice

While thickening the ice is an achievement, ensuring its longevity is equally crucial. During the melting season, the team remotely monitors the ice via sensors installed in the ice and visually using a time-lapse camera and satellite images.

This rigorous monitoring process helps gather essential data to understand the effectiveness and sustainability of their methods, ultimately contributing to their goal of restoring 100,000 km² of Arctic ice.

Mitigating Ice Loss While Reducing Carbon Levels

The initiative aims to provide a temporary but vital solution to mitigate the immediate impacts of ice loss while broader efforts to reduce carbon emissions continue. The project hopes to buy crucial time for global efforts to combat climate change by stabilizing the Arctic ice. Researchers are investigating ways to stop the decline of sea ice until carbon levels return to acceptable levels, providing a buffer against the worst effects of climate change.

 The Urgency of Action

In addition to their ice restoration efforts, Arctic Reflections emphasises the critical need to reduce carbon emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the Arctic Sea could be ice-free during the summer by the 2030s or 2040s unless decisive action is taken. While reducing CO2 and methane emissions remains absolutely vital, ambitious projects like Arctic Reflections are equally crucial. They offer hope not only on the distant horizon but also on the ice. Surely, they will face many challenges along the way, but efforts like these by people willing to take risks for the greater good are exactly what the world needs more of.


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