Analysis and Commentary
Yaroslav Yefimov: We can now predict when glaciers are likely to calve
© RIA Novosti. Aleksey Danichev

Yaroslav Yefimov: We can now predict when glaciers are likely to calve

The expedition Kara-Summer-2016 ended on October 9. Its participants towed an iceberg for the first time. Arctic.ru learned about the details of their research from Chief Expert of the Department of Marine Exploration at the Rosneft Arctic Research Center Yaroslav Yefimov.

Yaroslav, how many vessels took part in the expedition?

Two vessels — the research ship Akademik Tryoshnikov with a Ka-32 deck helicopter and the icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn — took part in the comprehensive research expedition organized by Rosneft with the help of the Arctic Research Center.

According to the press release on the results of the expedition, this year its participants towed an iceberg for the first time.

Our specialists tested for the first time the unique technology of changing the drift of icebergs by towing them. One iceberg weighed over one million tons, which is not only a first in the Russian Arctic but also a major event in global practice.

What vessel towed the iceberg?

The icebreaker Каpitan Dranitsyn towed two icebergs simultaneously by turning their trajectory by 90 and 180 degrees.

How was it done technically? Has anyone done this before?

No, nobody towed icebergs in the Kara Sea.

Towing was done in two stages. First the researchers conducted a comprehensive study of these icebergs. They put radio beacons on them, measured them and their submerged and surface parts and took oceanographic measurements (speed and direction of the current and depth of the sea) and meteorological data (air temperature, speed and direction of the wind). All this work was carried out in cooperation with the research vessel Akademik Tryoshnikov. The icebergs were towed by the icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn with the help of a specially made rope and sometimes a special net. The icebreaker cast a floating anchor with a rope attached to it, went round an iceberg, raised this end on board and started moving.

How did you measure these icebergs? How long did the towing take? How many icebergs have you moved?

The biggest iceberg we towed was over one million tons.  We made tentative assessments of their size on the basis of geometric parameters. It took over four hours to tow the heavier iceberg.

In all, we conducted 18 towing experiments on icebergs. Some of them were "sitting" ones (i.e. having a contact with the sea bed).

How will you use this experience in the future? How itwas done in the past: did ships had to change their routes?

Importantly, this work is the final stage of preparations for developing a corporate system of controlling ice conditions on the basis of this invaluable experience. Since 2012 the company has collected all the necessary information on the weather, ocean and ice conditions for the system of ice protection during exploratory drilling in the Kara Sea. This will also help us keep icebergs away from marine facilities during industrial activities on the Arctic shelf.

 

The press release said the icebreaker Akademik Tryoshnikov was a floating lab during the expedition. What research did it conduct? How many people were involved in it?

Over 30 people were involved in this research on the icebreaker. They conducted comprehensive ice studies, hydrographic surveys and analyzed satellite information.

According to the press release, radar survey and aerial photography of iceberg producing glaciers will make it possible to determine parameters of icebergs and identify areas of intensive calving. What are iceberg producing glaciers? In what condition are they now compared to the past?

Radar surveying allows us to determine the maximum size of an iceberg that may break off these glaciers. We can also predict when they will calve. With some confidence we can say when approximately icebergs will break off the glaciers we studied and what size they will be.

This work was done for the first time and its results are unique. We studied all open glaciers in the Russian Arctic.

The press release said that having studied data from 13 autonomous submerged buoy stations, the researchers obtained unique measurements on the state of the sea during a year and information on ice conditions and currents. What have they found out?

By processing these data researchers gain an idea about the hydrology of water basins — the speed and direction of currents, the distribution of temperatures in different water layers and the submerged parts of passing icebergs.