Project to monitor climate change in the Arctic

With what happens to ice and snow in the Arctic having a direct effect on Europe’s climate, a new research project is keeping a close eye on climate change in this coldest of regions.

The goal of the EuroCryoClim project will be to develop an operational and sustainable system capable of monitoring climate changes in the Arctic and other areas of the world covered by ice and snow.

‘The goal of the project is to establish an operational and sustainable monitoring system capable of analysing data from the 1970s until now and from now on year by year as data is acquired on a daily basis,’ Rune Solberg of the Norwegian Computing Centre told CORDIS news.

By collecting and analysing three decades worth of observations from satellites and in situ instruments, the project hopes to make it possible to quantify climate changes by region, so as to enable governments and citizens to anticipate the consequences of changing weather patterns and take appropriate actions.

‘It is important to understand the Earth system’s reactions to global warming (mainly due to the increases of the CO2 level) and it is important to determine the amount and locations of these changes in order to decide on actions for mitigation and adaptation’ said Dr Solberg.

Coordinator of this new project, to be funded by the European Space Agency and the Norwegian Space Centre, Dr Solberg was also the leader of its precursor, EuroClim. Partly financed by the European Union, it developed the technology necessary to produce the accurate observations and climate scenarios that made the EuroCryoClim project possible.

‘We realised there was a need to constantly monitor the Arctic more than 10 years ago when measurements started to show that the climate was changing in this region much faster than elsewhere,’ according to Dr Solberg.

‘We needed to be able to understand what was going on, why the ice was melting so fast and what the consequences could be. In the 10 years since we started to discuss the EuroClim concept there have been big changes. There is much less summer ice and glaciers, and Greenland’s ice sheet is disappearing much faster than anyone expected,’ he added.

As a decade is a short time in climate science, the EuroClim partners dived into the archives of satellite and meteorological station data of the past 25 to 30 years. They then calibrated the data to ensure that the readings are comparable so as to be able to combine it with new data to feed into a vast distributed database of information about climate change in Greenland, Scandinavia and the area around the North Pole. Through this technology, it is now possible to predict long-term trends.

‘We can look at a month in any given year, make seasonal comparisons and compare entire years. The greatest changes can be found in the seasonal variations, for instance from summer to summer in the case of sea ice,’ said Dr Solberg.

The ultimate goal of the two projects is to make the information available to as many users as possible by disseminating the results of the research as a web-based service.

‘Scientists are not the only ones who want and need this information. The public, for example, is becoming increasingly interested in climate change. It is becoming a hotter and hotter issue, but there is a lot of information and people are confused about how it will affect them,’ said Dr Solberg.

EuroCryoClim will seek to broaden the monitoring area of the EuroClim system, contributing to methods of improving climate models for the northern and southern polar regions, as well as the rest of the world. The system will then feed into larger Earth monitoring systems such as Europe’s Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

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Author: EARSC

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