Year-long Arctic climate change study begins

It's the first climate-change research expedition of its kind.

On Friday, Icebreaker 'Polarstern' embarked on a year-round trip to the central Arctic carrying scientists from 19 countries on board.

They'll spend the next year close to the North Pole observing key climate processes in the hope of being able to generate more robust climate predictions in the future.

Markus Rex -- leader of the expedition 'Mosaic' -- said there is no region of our planet that is warming as rapidly and substantially as the Arctic, and especially in winter.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) MOSAIC EXPEDITION LEADER, MARKUS REX, SAYING:

"Never before in modern research has an icebreaker has ventured out into the inhospitable central Arctic in winter - in summer icebreakers have been there, not in winter - where the ice is so thick that we will be locked in the ice, we can't break it and we will just drift with it, going where the ice is going no matter where this will be and we will be in the hands of nature, driven by the forces of wind and ice, for better or worse."

Until now, researchers have lacked necessary icebreaker equipment to tackle the winter season.

Monitoring stations will be set up around the vessel, and a landing strip will be built on the ice to accommodate research aircraft.

Four other icebreakers from Russia, China and Sweden will resupply the expedition with fuel and personnel.

Since 1979, the Arctic sea-ice extent has declined by nearly 12% per decade.