The third segment of the EU4OceanObs ocean observing awareness campaign focuses on Arctic Ocean observation. With the rapid warming of the Arctic, estimated at four times faster than the rest of the planet in recent decades, Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice sheet are declining faster than ever, and permafrost across the Arctic is increasingly thawing. Hitting local communities the hardest, the consequences are global. From accelerating temperature rise to contributing to sea level rise, disturbing weather systems, and leading to the destruction of ecosystems. Intensifying the monitoring of this vulnerable region and prediction of its future state is more than ever needed to inform mitigation and adaption actions and rapidly increase conservation efforts.
“Climate change is taking its toll on the Arctic, the environment, and its people. Taking action now will help us restore the balance we have lost and save the region from the devastating effects of climate change. It is our responsibility to take care of the Arctic and of the people who live there, now and in the future.”
Virginijus Sinkevicius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries.
The EU4OceanObs Arctic series will raise awareness on the need for sustained and comprehensive in situ observations in the Arctic (complementing satellite observations and numerical modelling) to improve our knowledge of the current state of the Arctic and better predict its changing state. At the same time, the campaign highlights the European Union’s (EU) strong commitment to Arctic Ocean observing showcasing various EU-supported observation networks, programmes and projects is supporting the monitoring of the Arctic marine environment, including partnerships with different sectors. From measuring ocean deoxygenation and ecosystem changes such as loss in plankton to monitoring marine litter, the communication campaign uses photography, storytelling and videos to illustrate the Arctic ecosystem and examples of measurements to understand climate change/anthropogenic impacts.
Studying the polar regions, however, presents unique challenges. The Arctic’s extreme and volatile conditions, its remoteness, and its vast size all contribute to the formidable obstacles faced by researchers. “But we know that understanding the transformations occurring in the Arctic is crucial to predicting global climate trends and safeguarding marine ecosystems, says Dr. Véronique Garçon of the Global Ocean Oxygen Decade (GOOD) programme. “The deep waters of the Arctic form part of the global ‘conveyor belt’ of ocean circulation, influencing deep water masses worldwide. Therefore, sampling in the Arctic is also essential for understanding changes in deep waters.”
Within the context of this communication campaign, EU4OceanObs contracted photographer Xavier Boymond to accompany the GEOMAR/ Global Ocean Oxygen Decade (GOOD) Programme science team expedition to Svalbard, north of the Arctic circle, in July 2023 on board the state-of-the-art icebreaker – le Commandat Charcot. This exceptional collaboration is supported by the partnership between the EU Arctic Research Icebreaker Consortium (ARICE) and PONANT SCIENCE. Started in 2021, over the course of five years, the partnership will enable science teams to travel to the Arctic and conduct experiments (sampling, lab work, data analysis) on board le Commandat Charcot.