Vishnu Nandan Will Be The Only Indian To Join The Largest Ever Arctic Expedition
Aadhya Khatri - Oct 08, 2019
Vishnu Nandan comes from Kerala, and he will be the only Indian among 300 other scientists to conduct the Study of Arctic Climate expedition
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In the course of four months, from November forward, Vishnu Nandan will not see the Sun as he will be on board the Polarstern, a German research vessel, at the Central Arctic, during the dark Polar winter.
The 32-year-old polar researcher comes from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and he will be the only Indian among 300 other scientists from all over the world to conduct the Study of Arctic Climate expedition (MOSAiC), a journey to help researchers better understand climate change’s impact and improve weather forecast.
Led by German Alfred Wegener Institute, MOSAiC is the largest Arctic expedition ever launched in history. It will be the first research of this scale at the North Pole and will last for the whole year. There have been some previous studies, but they only operate in a short period of time as they could not access in winter due to the thick ice sheets. This time, the research vessel will lock itself on a large ice sheet before winter comes, and then drift along with it. An ideal floe (ice sheet) was found a few days ago.
Dr. Nandan will board a Russian icebreaker ship from Tromso, a Norwegian port in November, and then board the Polarstern when it enters the second leg.
“The aim of the expedition will be to parameterise the atmospheric, geophysical, oceanographic and all other possible variables in the Arctic, and use it to more accurately forecast the changes in our weather systems. My role as a radar remote sensing specialist is to deploy radar sensors on the sea ice surface and accurately measure the ice thickness and its variations,” said Dr. Nandan during a phone call from Canada where he is working as a University of Manitoba’s post-doctoral researcher.
Since he will make the expedition in winter, he will be cut off from sunlight until March.
“Usually, our expeditions are for shorter periods, and we have research stations nearby for support. Here, we will be right in the middle of nowhere, in freezing cold temperatures and in complete darkness. Our biological clocks will go haywire. Communication to the outside world, and our loved ones, will also be limited,” said Dr. Nandan.
Vishnu Nandan graduated from the SCT Engineering College, Thiruvananthapuram. However, he then quit his job in the IT sector to study Earth Observation Sciences at ITC, Enshcede, The Netherlands. He then completed MSc there with a gold medal.
He started to be noticed when he authored a study as part of the University of Calgary’s Cryosphere Climate Research Group. His research pointed out the incorrectness of the measurements of sea ice forming in the Arctic each season made by satellites. The study also suggests that scientists may have overestimated the thickness of Arctic sea ice as the result of salts on snow covering sea ice.
“This year, we have the second lowest sea ice extent in the past 50 years, accentuated by anthropogenic activities. With lesser ice cover, more of the Arctic Ocean is exposed to sunlight for longer periods, causing increase of temperatures across the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. As the ocean gets warmer, it influences global weather patterns, causing changes in monsoon patterns and triggering more destructive cyclones. The data we will be gathering in this expedition related to these will be of immense use to the upcoming generation of young scientists,” says Dr. Nandan.