University of Washington
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ice station SHEBA (Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean) was a large
NSF endeavor that studied the Arctic ice pack, a sheet of frozen sea water
the size of the U.S.A.
This sheet of ice is an interactive element in the global climate system
and is also a great impediment to shipping routes across the top of the
world between Atlantic and Pacific industrial centers.
Researchers hope to learn more about the fate of the ice pack, which has
in recent years lost about 10 percent of its lateral extent and about
25 percent of its thickness.
Frozen in ice
The SHEBA project involved about 160 researchers who spent one to two
months at a time on an icebreaker frozen into the
Arctic ice pack for more than a year, measuring all of the physical factors
that could cause the ice pack to disappear in a few decades.
SHEBA was the largest undertaking in the Arctic by NSF-supported
project deployed weather balloons, drifting buoys, satellites, radar,
aircraft and even a nuclear submarine.
From their project, NSF researchers have reported the following:
Arctic is predicted to be the first place on Earth to sense the start
of global warming and the effects will be most dramatic there due to
climatic feedback that occurs in the Arctic;
- If the melting continues, the ice pack could disappear, although
not within living humans lifetime. There are indications the ice
pack has existed for several million years.
of the ice pack could be accompanied by changes in climate, storm patterns
and intensity, ocean circulation, northward migration of pests and diseases
and coastal erosion;
- There is increasing evidence that the thinning of the ice pack this
decade is the result of global warming. The data from SHEBA are necessary
to address the questions surrounding the predictions of global warming
in the Arctic and will not be fully examined for years due to the
enormous size of the data set;
- The extensive amount of data collected during SHEBA will be instrumental
for addressing the numerous questions related to the role of the Arctic
in climate change and global warming.