Wellington researcher joins world’s largest polar research expedition

A Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington scientist will become the first New Zealand researcher to join MOSAiC, the world’s largest international polar research expedition.


Dr Ruzica Dadic from the University’s Antarctic Research Centre will join the expedition in July for three months.

“MOSAiC is aimed at understanding the Arctic system and what role it plays in global climate change,” Dr Dadic says. “We’ll be directly observing the Arctic climate processes that involve atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, biochemistry, and ecosystems.”

MOSAiC involves experts from 20 countries and more than 70 scientific institutes who will spend a combined year in the Arctic on the research vessel Polarstern. It is being coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) and has a total budget of around 240 million.

For the duration of MOSAiC, Dr Dadic is holding an adjunct research fellow position at the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, SLF, in Switzerland.

She was originally scheduled to join the expedition in March, but the COVID-19 pandemic meant her participation in the expedition was delayed.

“Rescheduling everything was definitely a challenge, but the MOSAiC logistics team  did an amazing job of finding solutions so we have only had tiny gaps in the data we are collecting, and the Antarctic Research Centre and the SLF  have been hugely supportive as I reschedule everything,” Dr Dadic says. “Coordinating international travel is still a challenge, and I’ll be travelling for an extra month now due to quarantine requirements, but everything has been handled really well and I’m excited to be able to participate in the field efforts of MOSAiC.”

Dr Dadic will be focused on measuring and monitoring the physical properties of snow on the Arctic sea ice and how these properties affect the Arctic climate and ecosystem, and global climate processes.

“The biggest task of the research team I will be joining is to regularly take and scan snow samples to learn about the structure and properties of the snow, before combining our insights with researchers working on ice, ocean, atmosphere, and ecosystems,” Dr Dadic says. “The information we gather will help shed light on one of the key knowledge gaps in climate change modelling.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate identifies snow on sea ice as one of the key knowledge gaps and uncertainties limiting climate models that predict future changes in Earth’s climate, Dr Dadic says.

“The insulating and reflective properties of snow are important to understanding the heat exchange between the ocean and sea ice and the atmosphere, which affects the temperature of the Earth,” Dr Dadic says. “Snow processes in return are highly sensitive to changing temperatures, and changes in the snow can affect the sea ice and ocean underneath it, affecting the light and nutrients available to polar marine ecosystems.”

Once Dr Dadic and her colleagues have the data, they will work with other research teams to investigate which snow processes have the largest effect on sea ice, ocean, the atmosphere, and ecosystems. They will also look to complete laboratory experiments and modelling to better understand how snow affects global climate processes.