DAMOCLES: Understanding climate change in the Arctic
Rapidly rising temperatures in the Arctic mean the Arctic Ocean is likely to be ice-free in the summer by 2060. This will have serious impacts both on the environment and human activities ranging from fisheries to oil and gas production, yet a lack of data means there are still serious gaps in our understanding of the Arctic climate system.
Seeking to remedy this situation is the DAMOCLES (Developing Arctic Modelling and Observing Capabilities for Long-term Environmental Studies) project, which brings together over 40 partners from the EU and beyond. It is funded under the EU's Sixth Framework Programme to the tune of €16.1 million, and represents a key European contribution to the International Polar Year, which has just got underway.
'The main aim of the DAMOCLES project is to study the fate of sea ice in the Arctic,' Project Coordinator Jean-Claude Gascard of the Pierre and Marie Curie University told CORDIS News.
The project partners plan to develop a comprehensive monitoring and observation framework to increase our knowledge of the ongoing changes in the Arctic's atmosphere-ice-ocean system. Gathering data in the harsh arctic environment is extremely difficult, and while the researchers will gather information from existing sources such as satellites, they will also be developing innovative technologies to obtain data on the ice, ocean and atmosphere in the far north.
A major priority for the project is developing techniques to measure the thickness of the ice. 'We want to understand why sea ice is changing, or if the multi-year ice is going to fade away and be replaced by first year ice, so we definitely need a new technology to measure the ice thickness, more than the ice extent,' explained Professor Gascard.
In addition to coordinating DAMOCLES, Professor Gascard is contributing to the project's research effort by investigating the structure of the ocean underneath the ice. 'Even if DAMOCLES is a sea-ice centric project, we need to understand what is happening in the atmosphere just above or in the ocean just below,' he said. 'Our main task in our lab in Paris is to look at the ocean structure just underneath the ice.'
As part of their outreach activities, the project partners have just launched a mobile exhibition, which aims to inform the general public about Arctic research and the work of the DAMOCLES project in particular.
'The work of DAMOCLES is a very complicated exercise. It's a huge undertaking involving ships, aircraft, icebreakers, satellite recordings and very complex technological equipment underneath the ice and in the ocean up in the Arctic,' said Richard de Ferranti of the International Polar Foundation, one of the project partners. 'To try and explain how that works and how it's going to add to our knowledge of the Arctic and communicate that in a way that reaches many people has been quite a challenge, but we've done our best to make the messages as clear and attractive as possible.'
The exhibition is currently at the Natural Sciences Museum in Brussels, Belgium, and it will travel around Europe throughout the International Polar Year. One of its first visitors was EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik, who described DAMOCLES as 'an excellent example of how EU Research and Development Framework Programmes support climate research'.
Data Source Provider: CORDIS News interview with project partners
Document Reference: Based on a CORDIS News interview with the DAMOCLES project partners
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Earth Sciences; Environmental Protection; Meteorology; Scientific Research