《TAIPEI TIMES》 Locally made data buoys to take part in Arctic mission
An undated photograph shows from left, Giletycz Slawomir Jacek, a Polish postdoc at National Central University’s （NCU） School of Earth Sciences, NCU Graduate Institute of Hydrological and Oceanic Sciences associate professor Chien Hwa, graduate student Cheng An, institute director Ni Chun-fa, and Hsu Shu-kun, director of NCU’s School of Earth Sciences, with locally developed drifting data buoys that are to be transported to a research station near the Arctic Sea for an observation mission. Photo provided by National Central University
By Lin Chia-nan / Staff reporter
Eight drifting data buoys developed by Taiwanese scientists are to be transported to a research station near the Arctic Sea for an observation mission, marking a new trajectory for domestic oceanographic research, National Central University （NCU） said yesterday.
The drifting buoys, each measuring 60cm in diameter, are equipped with instruments for collecting hydrological data, meteorologic-oceanic parameters and satellite communications, NCU Graduate Institute of Hydrological and Oceanic Sciences associate professor Chien Hwa （錢樺） said.
The buoys will be transported to a research station in Svalbard — a group of islands north of Norway — and deployed in nearby waters before the Arctic Sea starts icing in September, Chien said.
They will remain in the Arctic Sea for three to four months to monitor the heat flux of the North Atlantic warm current as it flows into the into the Arctic and the coastal states, he said.
The data collected would provide greater insight into the effects of the rapid melting of sea ice because of global warming, he said.
It would be best if the buoys become enveloped by an ice sheet in spring next year, allowing them to gather more data to improve understanding of how sea ice breaks up and mixes, he added.
Scientists have observed the acceleration of polar sea ice melting in the past few years, and ocean waves seem to play a key part in the melting process, as the huge waves break ice sheets into smaller pieces and reduce the mixed-layer depth of the upper ocean, but existing field data are too scarce to confirm the process, Chien said.
Despite the negative effects of a melting Arctic, the ice-free status might usher in a new intercontinental waterway for shipping through which Taiwan, with its competitive geographic location, can explore new economic opportunities, he said.
The research station in Svalbard is operated by Poland’s Nicolaus Copernicus University.
Giletycz Slawomir Jacek — a Polish postdoc at NCU who is also known by his Chinese name Chang Wen-he （張文和） — will fly to Svalbard to assist in the observation project, it added.
The unprecedented Arctic research project by local researchers is made possible through a cooperation agreement signed by the two schools in 2019, it said.
The school also thanked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Department of European Affairs and the National Academy of Marine Research for providing assistance.
Other Earth scientists also plan to visit Svalbard in August to install microseismographs to study the structures of glaciers, but due to mounting barriers created by COVID-19, only a few who have been vaccinated can travel there, Chien said.