(ANSA-AFP) - BERLIN, OCTOBER 12 - The Polarstern ship of the German Alfred Wegener Institute with the largest scientific mission sent to the North Pole is expected today at the port of Bremerhaven, Germany, with the task of gather vital information on the effects of global warming, devastating evidence of a dying Arctic Ocean that is feared will see totally ice-free summers within a few decades.
Several hundred scientists from 20 countries spent 389 days adrift studying the dramatic effects of global warming on an area considered "the epicenter of climate change," according to mission leader Markus Rex.
"We have witnessed the agony of the Arctic ocean," Rex told AFP.
"We have seen this process closely," he added, sailing across vast expanses of ice-free open sea, "sometimes unobstructed to the horizon."
"At the same North Pole - he continued - we found ice severely eroded, melted, thin and fragile".
The researchers' observations were supported by US satellite images showing that in 2020 sea ice in the Arctic reached the second lowest summer low on record since 2012. The expedition, costing 140 million euros, is bringing back 150 terabytes of data and over 1,000 ice samples.
"The expedition, of course, will produce results on many different levels," Rex said.
The team measured more than 100 parameters almost continuously throughout the year and hopes the information will provide "a breakthrough in understanding the Arctic and the climate system," he said.
Analyzing the data will take up to two years, with the goal of developing models to help predict heat waves, downpours and storms over the next 20, 50 or 100 years.