With the growing challenges facing the Arctic, the European Union (EU) has an important role in strengthening Arctic cooperation and safeguarding the Arctic environment. This includes working with international partners to develop a coordinated and integrated observation system. This in turn will contribute to better monitoring and forecasting of significant changes, effective prevention and adaptation strategies to climate change, and sustainable development in the Arctic.

The temperatures in the Arctic continue to rise at more than twice the global annual average. Snow and ice are melting at an increasing rate, impacting both local ecosystems and the global climate system. The effects of a changing Arctic climate are felt across the high latitudes and beyond – with global environmental, economic, and social implications.

On 9 May 2021, the European Commission, together with ministers from 25 countries signed the 3rd Arctic Science Ministerial Joint Statement. This third edition highlighted and consolidated the leading role of the EU on Arctic science. It also identifies four urgent actions to address through international cooperation including

– implementing observing networks and data sharing
– enhancing understanding and prediction capability for Arctic environmental and social systems, for the global impact of these changes

The European Commission and the European External Action Service unveiled the new EU policy for the Arctic in mid-October 2021. The EU will further strengthen its engagement in the region, working with partners to ensure a peaceful, sustainable and prosperous Arctic.

To expand the global monitoring and forecasting capacities, and support the integration of a fit-for-purppse Arctic Ocean observing system, the EU funds various research and innovation projects, data infrastructures, and coordinating networks.

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1) Coordination Networks

Funded by the EU’s H2020 programme, EU-PolarNet is the world’s largest consortium of polar research expertise and infrastructures, involving 25 partners representing all European Member States and Associated Countries with well-established Polar Programmes.

Building on the achievements of EU-PolarNet 1 (2015 – 2020), EU-PolarNet 2 (2020 – 2024) seeks to establish a sustainable and inclusive platform to co-develop and advance European Polar research actions and to give evidence-based advice to policy-making processes. This platform will further develop the coordination of Polar research actions in Europe and with overseas partners. To ensure that such an important platform is sustained after the end of EU-PolarNet 2, the project will work towards creating a permanent European Polar Coordination Office.

The ESA Polar Science Cluster seeks to promote networking, collaborative research, and foster international collaboration in Polar science. It involves different ESA funded projects and activities bringing together different expertise, data and resources with the goal to establish an stronger European Polar research area in close collaboration with the European Commission Directorate General for Research and Innovation and other European and international partners.

The EU Polar Cluster is a growing network of EU-funded polar research projects. The Cluster provides current and past Arctic, Antarctic and Southern Ocean, and Polar projects funded under the EU’s successive Research and Innovation programmes (H2020, FP7).  The projects reflect a broad spectrum of research and coordination activities – ranging from the most up-to-date findings on permafrost and sea ice, from enhancing observation to improving predictions, and from networking research stations to coordinating access to icebreakers. The cluster is coordinated by the EU-funded project EU PolarNet 2.

The Arctic ROOS is a regional node under EuroGOOS with 20 member institutions from 11 European countries working actively with ocean observation and modelling systems for the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas.  The Arctic ROOS will promote, develop and maintain operational monitoring and forecasting of ocean circulation, water masses, ocean surface conditions, sea ice and biological/chemical constituents.

Website: arctic.eurogoos.eu

2) EU Infrastructures providing free access

    to Arctic Ocean data

Launched in November 2020, the EMODnet Arctic Data Portal serves to improve the availability, quality, timeliness, and accessibility of essential marine in situ data from the Arctic region. The Portal is a joint initiative of EMODnet, Copernicus Marine Service, INSTAC, Copernicus In Situ Coordination Group and EuroGOOS, and was implemented under EMODnet Physics.

To explore the portal and access data, click here.

The EU’s Copernicus Marine Service provides open-access and free data through its

  • Sea Ice Thematic Assembly Centre: observational multi-mission data products derived from upstream satellite earth observation data, including sea ice variables
  • Arctic Monitoring & Forecasting Centre: oceanic data for the Arctic including: near-real-time forecasting products for the ocean physical conditions (3-dimensional ocean and sea ice) and the corresponding biological forecast restricted to the lower trophic levels (primary production)

Click here, about how the Copernicus Marine Service is supporting the EU’s Arctic Policy.

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3) EU Research & Innovation projects

The European Union funds a number of projects dedicated to improving capacity, coordination and integration of monitoring and forecasting efforts of the Arctic Ocean under its H2020 Research and Innovation programme. These projects mainly focus on developing an integrated observation system, studying the impact of Arctic changes on the weather and climate of the northern hemisphere, and the effect of climate change on the Arctic.

Implementing Observations for societal Needs

With €15 M funding from the EU’s H2020 programme, the Arctic PASSION project (2021 – 2025) will promote the integration of international environmental observing systems for the Arctic and improve the tailoring of these systems to the needs of various user groups ranging from local inhabitants to academia through to industry and decision-makers.

Working under the SAON framework and in partnership with Arctic rights-holders and stakeholders, Arctic PASSION will strengthen international scientific observations, community-based monitoring, and Indigenous knowledge and local knowledge within an observing system.

Arctic PASSION will also fill critical gaps in observations and improve the archiving, handling and interoperability of Arctic data systems. It will use these improvements to develop and implement eight new EuroGEO Pilot Services that will support emergency preparedness, food security, and responses to climate and socio-economic changes in the Arctic.

A strategy for meeting the needs for marine-based research in the Arctic

The ARICE project’s (2018 – 2022) overall aim is to provide Europe with better capacities for marine-based research in the ice-covered Arctic Ocean. ARICE seeks to reach this goal with the existing polar fleet through a combination of networking, transnational access & joint research activities. Work package 6 of the project focuses on monitoring and observations capacities in the Arctic Ocean.

From the gradual loss of sea ice to increases in temperature, climate change is affecting the Arctic ecosystem. Predicting changes is important but difficult due to knowledge gaps. The EU-funded ECOTIP project will improve our understanding of the causes, thresholds and consequences of the ecosystem tipping cascades and their effect on Arctic marine biodiversity. It will integrate biological observations into a trait-based approach to marine biodiversity and use the trait-based approach to link the changes in biological communities to ecosystem functions. It will also map past and present Arctic biodiversity and its response to external drivers. By engaging with indigenous societies and European citizens, ECOTIP will provide recommendations for optimising the monitoring of Arctic biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The overall objective of INTAROS  (2016 – 2021) is to develop an integrated Arctic Observation System (iAOS) by extending, improving and unifying existing systems in the different regions of the Arctic. INTAROS will have a strong multidisciplinary focus, with tools for integration of data from atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and terrestrial sciences, provided by institutions in Europe, North America and Asia.

KEPLER is a multi-partner initiative, built around the operational European Ice Services and Copernicus information providers, to prepare a road map for Copernicus to deliver an improved European capacity for monitoring and forecasting the Polar Regions. In essence, KEPLER will provide a mechanism that enables the broad range of Polar Regions stakeholders to be equipped with the most accurate and relevant, environmental information so that they can seize the many benefits that Copernicus products generate for society and economy. To release the full potential of Polar Regions Earth Observation, KEPLER addresses the following themes:

  1. Raising awareness for the Copernicus programme
  2. Informing and educating Copernicus users
  3. Engaging Copernicus users in public and private sector
  4. Enabling access to Copernicus data and information
  5. Identification of research gaps regarding integration/assimilation
  6. Improved sea-ice mapping and forecasting

Useful links:

Science for socio-economic adaptation

The Nunataryuk project (2017-2023) will determine the impacts of thawing coastal and subsea permafrost on the global climate, and will develop targeted and co-designed adaptation and mitigation strategies for the Arctic coastal population.


For an up-to-date list of current and past Arctic-related projects funded by the EU H2020 R&I programme visit the EU Polar Cluster – Arctic Section by clicking the icon below:


EU Polar Cluster – Arctic


New funding under the EU’s successor R&I funding programme Horizon Europe (2021 –2027) will be available to strengthen the EU’s involvement in the Arctic in line with the objectives of the EU Green Deal and Horizon Europe’s adaption to climate change mission.