Turkish scientists on an expedition to the Arctic circle completed their studies on Friday into the effects of global warming on polar sea ice and glaciers, which are crucial in the planet's heat balance and in danger of disappearing as temperatures hit unprecedented levels.
"While this ice covering changes the relationship between the sea and the atmosphere, it also provides an important input for climate formation," said Ozgun Oktar, who serves as a captain in Türkiye's 2nd Arctic Ocean expedition.
Underlining that the structure of sea ice is actually "very different" from as it appears, Oktar explained to Anadolu Agency that it forms a sheet covering the ocean as water freezes in the winter and partially melts in the summer.
"We've been tracking the sea ice with satellite data since the 1970s. However, satellite data requires ground confirmation," he said, adding that this summer, the team was observing the ice in the Barents Sea.
The scientific team began their voyage from the port of Tromso in northern Norway and traveled to the 82nd parallel, a circle of latitude over 1,300 kilometers (808 miles) north.
The expedition was carried out under the coordination of the MAM Polar Research Institute, part of the Scientific and Technological Research Institution of Türkiye (TUBITAK).
Nearly 1.5 million square km (580 sq mi) of sea ice has melted in the arctic region due to global climate change.
Studies using satellite data since 1970 indicate that the polar sea ice has been shrinking every year.
Capt. Oktar, who is also in charge of logistics, stressed the role of the sea ice in preventing a new ice age in the world.
As it freezes, polar seawater releases some of its salt into the surrounding ocean, resulting in a denser body of water near the bottom, which then courses around the world in a system of currents before arriving back at the pole, he said.
"Currents are important to us because while the land and sea can retain heat, the atmosphere can't. So, this current system helps create the climate and, by moving masses of both air and water, prevent the world from freezing over."
Oktar added that the current glaciers were left over from the world's last glacial maximum, a major climatic event about 20,000 years ago that saw major landscape changes across many areas.
Underlining that the Arctic was warming twice as fast than the rest of the planet due to climate change, Oktar said both sea ice and glaciers were at risk of vanishing.
The disappearance of the sea ice has caused extreme events in our climate system, Oktar said, adding that the disappearance of the glaciers, on the other hand, was affecting sea level and salinity due to the increase in the amount of ocean fresh water.