Arctic icebergs and boat

Scientists plan to refreeze the North Pole

We’ve been giving our ice caps something of a cold shoulder over the past few decades. Having lasted for millions of years, they risk melting away entirely, unless radical action is taken.

While the South Pole has oscillated from being a lush and green landmass several million years ago to today’s frozen tundra, the North Pole is exclusively ice. Drill down beneath the surface, and you’d soon reach the icy depths of the Arctic Ocean.

Rising temperatures mean the North Pole is shrinking, having a remarkable impact on sea levels. By 2035, it is estimated that the Arctic could be completely ice-free in summertime. However, a Welsh business has an idea which could see the North Pole refrozen, preserving this icy environment for longer.

Refreezing the North Pole

Losing the North Pole is about more than just a floating block of ice. This region of the planet is considered home to rare species such as the Arctic Fox, Ringed Seals and Polar Bears to name a few. While some animals that live in this region can brave the icy waters, many need a solid footing to get around, feed themselves and to survive long enough to breed.

This is pointing to something we know is happening very quickly, and now we know we have to be ready for it [sooner than we might have thought]

– Maria Vittoria Guarino, climate scientist, British Antarctic Survey speaking to National Geographic

Melting ice and permafrost risks endangering many of these animals, while also raising sea levels and releasing greenhouse gases such as CO2 and Methane which have been locked away in the ice for millions of years. The latter issue risks making our fight to stabilise global temperatures even harder.

Graduates and present students from the University of Bangor in North Wales, as well as those from the US, Finland and France have knocked their heads together and proposed a solution – the Real Ice Re-Icing Machine. This device is intended to use the power of the wind to drill into the ice, pull water up from below and allow it to freeze on the surface, creating new surface ice in the process.

How Real Ice will work

The work of the machine is simple: pumping water up to the surface for freezing increases ice thickness up top. Through a process called the Albedo effect, a layer of ice over sea water helps reflect most of the Sun’s heat and light. Seawater without ice protection, by comparison, absorbs most of the Sun’s heat, causing subsurface warming, preventing fresh ice from forming altogether.

Real Ice will be expecting to see how effective its device is, sending a prototype to Northern Canada. If the prototype proves successful, future models can be manufactured and sent to indigenous communities, who can be left in charge of them. The re-icing process itself is expected to be most suitable during winter months. The prototype’s work is only made possible thanks to extensive field-testing of a 10-watt powered 3D-printed version of the machine.

Protecting the ice in the Arctic, Real Ice will also be in a position to help sustain Arctic communities. The ice created through the machines could become a lucrative and sustainable resource as well, as it could be made marketable through carbon credits. These credits could be bought up by businesses looking to offset carbon emissions, creating a virtuous circle out of re-icing the Arctic Circle.

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