Pursuing an Arctic research dream

Published: 8 December 2022

Lizz Webb, a PhD student in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (and OSE Science Education Fellow) here at McGill University, spent a week in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago barely 1,000 kilometres from the North Pole, as part of her studies.

Webb took part in the Winter School on Atmospheric-Ocean-Sea Ice Interaction Processes. Her research combines her background in applied mathematics with a lifelong love of the water. Her doctoral project focuses on the Beaufort Gyre, a large circular current system that has been trapping an unusually large amount of fresh water from melting sea ice and runoff in an area of ocean bounded by Canada, Alaska and Russia.

“The Beaufort Gyre usually reverses direction every five to seven years,” Webb explains. “But it has been over 20 years now since the last time this happened.

“The gyre currently holds more fresh water than all the Great Lakes combined. If it were to release just 5 percent of this, it would lead to an event similar to something that happened in the 70s called the Great Salinity Anomaly, which led to severe winters in Northern Europe and had an impact on fisheries and the salinity of the oceans around the world.”

Read more about Webb's research and her time spent in a unique, awe-inspiring environment on the Reporter: (by Fergus Grieve)

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