Scientists in Canada had to abandon a $17m research expedition to Hudson Bay this week owing to dangerous weather conditions arising from warming temperatures in the region.

Forty scientists from five Canadian universities were hoping to analyse the impact of climate change as part of a four-year project, but the effects of climate change prevented them from even completing the first leg of the trip.

In late May, they set off from Quebec City on the icebreaker and Arctic research vessel CCGS Amundsen.

However, the icebreaker had to take a different route when dense ice — up to eight metres (25ft) thick– filled the waters off the northern coast of Newfoundland, trapping fishing boats and ferries.

David Barber, the expedition’s chief scientist who studies the effects of climate at the University of Manitoba in Canada, said:

It was a really dramatic situation. We were getting search and rescue calls from fishing boats that were stranded in the ice and tankers that were stranded trying to get fuel into the communities. Nobody could manage this ice because it was far too heavy to get through.

The team of scientists made a decision that continuing their expedition would interfere with search and rescue operations, putting lives at risk.

Barber added that the icy conditions were unexpected.

It’s not something you would expect to see there and not something we’ve seen there before. In the high Arctic, climate change is causing the ice to get thinner and there to be less of it. What that does is that it increases the mobility of ice.

Referring to the fact that it was climate change that thwarted a study on the very issue, Barber said:

We’re doing a large-scale climate change study and before we can even get going on it, climate change is conspiring to force us to cancel that study.

The next leg of the expedition, scheduled to start on 6 July, is still expected to go ahead.

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“This extremely unfortunate event is not expected to affect the remainder of the 2017 Amundsen Expedition resuming on July 6,” said Louis Fortier, scientific director of the Amundsen and ArcticNet Science programs.

However, because of the current decision to halt operations, it is likely that the study will need to be extended by at least six months and may require more funding.