May 2023

Welcome to the May edition of the quaterly EU-PolarNet 2 newsletter!

Welcome to our EU-PolarNet 2 spring newsletter 2023! We are looking forward to an exciting 3rd year of our project. The first half of the year is dedicated to research prioritisation process of EU-PolarNet. The research prioritisation process will take place in a retreat in June with members of our Polar Expert Group and other high-level scientists and stakeholders.

We are happy to fund 3 exciting service contracts as an outcome of the last call for services, which are now starting their work.

In May, we have organised a well-attended policy briefing in Brussels together with the SO-CHIC project. The briefing focussed on Antarctica and how the ongoing changes there influence our climate in Europe. You can view the policy briefing here.

Newsletter content

News from EU-PolarNet 2

EU-PolarNet 2 at ASSW2023

EU-PolarNet 2 organised a side event at the Arctic Science Summit Week ASSW2023 called “EU-PolarNet 2: advancing European Polar research strategies. We had a pleasantly full room at this early morning session. The session was co-convened by Annette Scheepstra (EU-PolarNet 2 stakeholder guardian) and Anneli Strobel (EU-PolarNet 2 project manager) and chaired by Renuka Badhe (EU-PolarNet 2 Work Package 6 lead). The session was targeted to a broad range of our stakeholders and introduced EU-PolarNet 2 and particularly our research prioritisation process.

The presentations were followed by a panel discussion and open debate on the research needs of our various stakeholders. On the panel, we had high-level representatives from our different stakeholder groups:

  • Carlo Barbante, Director ISP-CNR, leader or research prioritisation work package in EU-PolarNet 2
  • Patti Bruns, Secretary General of the Arctic Mayors Forum
  • Susana Hancock, ExCom representative from APECS
  • Kirsi Latola, stakeholder Work Package lead EU-PolarNet 2
  • Thomas Jung, Vice-director of AWI, representative from modelling community
  • Matthew Druckenmiller, vice-president IASC and lead for the US team for the ICARP IV
EU-PolarNet 2 session at ASSW 2023 (Photo: A. Strobel)

New activities at the Catalyst platform

Have you visited the Catalyst Platform yet? It is one of the main cooperation tools developed by EU-PolarNet 2 that shall improve the information flow within the European Polar community. The Catalyst platform collects all news and events from EU-PolarNet, the European Polar Board and the EU Polar Cluster. It thus provides an excellent overview of all information about the European polar research community in one place!

More information here.

New EU-PolarNet 2 Service Contracts funded!

Through the Service Calls, EU-PolarNet 2 is seeking support from the European research community to develop ideas for concrete research activities for the research needs defined in the Integrated European Polar Research Programme (EPRP). The third and last EU-PolarNet 2 Call for Services closed on 20th of December 2022. We are supporting three projects, which will feed into our research prioritisation process:

  • East Antarctic Marine Ice Sheet Instability (EA-MISI): exchange and disseminate knowledge on Ice-Ocean-Lithosphere Interplay ICEOLIA new European Research Council synergy project preparation. This Service Contract aims at designing a road map for establishing a multi-year, international, cooperative, scientific investigation of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet in the region of the George V Land.
  • COLDwater – Does climate change represent a challenge for polar COmmunities by Limiting their access to Drinkable water? COLDwater aims to seize the knowledge gap described above by gathering different experts related to polar regions, water management and cyanotoxins to evaluate the current situation and further risk related to cyanotoxin in polar water bodies. It will prepare a white paper, which will prime a forum for experts and stake- and rightsholders.
  • HILDAE – HIgh Latitude Dust in a changing Arctic Environment. The Service Contract HILDAE will define a synergistic research strategy approach and derive a roadmap of actions and required observational needs for responding to High Latitude Dust studies and effective project building.

Webinar on permafrost research needs

On 21 March, EU-PolarNet 2 held one of its thematic webinars, together with the EU Polar Cluster project Nunataryuk. We had three excellent speakers for this webinar on “Permafrost Research: current activity and future needs”. Paul Overduin (Alfred Wegener Institute), Susanna Gartler (University of Vienna) and Gustaf Hugelius (Stockholm University) provided an overview of EU Arctic permafrost research activities, current fields of study and future research needs in a policy relevant context.

Watch the recording of this exciting and informative webinar here.

Webinar: governing and protecting the Antarctic and Southern Ocean

This EU-PolarNet 2 webinar, hosted by the European Polar Board, gives an overview of Antarctic Governance and various actors involved – the Antarctic Treaty and its related agreements including the Madrid Protocol, other international agencies and organisations that provide advice and support the work of the ATS, and other conventions that are relevant for the Southern Ocean. The webinar will take place on 15th May 2023, 14:00 CEST.

Register for the webinar here.

EU Polar Cluster News

The Arctic Science Summit Week (ASSW) is organised annually by the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC) to provide opportunities for coordination, cooperation and collaboration between the various scientific organizations involved in Arctic research. This year’s ASSW was held in Vienna, Austria from 17 – 24 February 2023. The EU Polar Cluster held 2 events:

The “European Coordination of Polar Research” Meeting (18 February) and the “Polar Research Communications Meeting” (21 February) co-organised by EU-PolarNet 2, the EPB (cf. EPB at the ASSW2023) and BAS as co-coordinators of the EU Polar Cluster. The communications meeting fostered great discussion with many communication specialists of the EU Polar Cluster and external guests, and the initiatives will be continues in a Cluster communication task group.

The EU Polar Cluster welcomed a new permanent member, EuroGOOS/ Arctic ROOS. Furthermore, the projects HiAOOS and ACCIBERG became members of the Cluster beginning of 2023.

Since summer 2021, the EU Polar Cluster publishes its own regular newsletters. Read the latest edition of the EU Polar Cluster and sign up to the Cluster newsletter here.

EU Polar Cluster at AGU 2022

The EU Polar Cluster had a booth at AGU (American Geophysical Union) Fall Meeting 2022 in Chicago – one of the most influential events in the world dedicated to the advancement of Earth and space sciences. The booth was organised and managed for the EU Polar Cluster by the European Polar Board Secretariat and included information flyers from all of the Cluster Members. The Cluster as a collaboration network, and its Members were presented to many interested researchers and attendees that visited our booth, and we were able to create some great new connections.

Further information: AGU Fall meeting 2022

Partner highlights on polar research

IPCC Releases New Synthesis Report

Following lengthy negotiations, the IPCC presented the new Synthesis Report for its sixth reporting cycle in Interlaken, Switzerland, in March. The Synthesis Report marks the end of the IPCC’s sixth reporting cycle and summarises the findings of its three Working Groups. In a press release on the report, the IPCC stresses that the speed and scope of the measures implemented and planned to date are insufficient to combat climate change. Greenhouse-gas emissions have risen further since the last report and led to global warming of 1.1 degrees Celsius in comparison to the preindustrial level. In order to limit warming to 1.5 degrees, emissions must be reduced in all sectors and virtually cut in half by 2030.

Further information: IPCC Releases New Synthesis Report

Hans-Otto Pörtner consults with other delegates between sessions. (Photo: IISD/ENBAnastasia Ro)

Record low sea ice cover in the Antarctic

There is currently less sea ice in the Antarctic than at any time in the forty years since the beginning of satellite observations. The melting has progressed since December 2022, especially in the Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas in the West Antarctic, the former becoming virtually ice-free. According to expedition leader and AWI geophysicist Prof Karsten Gohl, who was in the region for the seventh time, having first been there in 1994: “I have never seen such an extreme, ice-free situation here before. The continental shelf, an area the size of Germany, is now completely ice-free. Though these conditions are advantageous for our vessel-based fieldwork, it is still troubling to consider how quickly this change has taken place.”

Further information: Record low sea ice cover in the Antarctic


Polarstern in ice free Bellingshausen Sea, West Antarctica, in January 2023. (Photo: James Kirkham)

The Antarctic, key to future sea level rise (policy briefing)

EU-PolarNet 2 is organising a policy briefing on behalf of the EU Polar Cluster, to be held in Brussels on 3rd of May from 14:00 – 16:00, titled “Recent changes in the Antarctic and their impacts on Europe”. This event is jointly organised by the Horizon2020-funded EU Polar Cluster projects EU-PolarNet 2 and SO-CHIC, with TiPACCS, and PROTECT. The goal is to present relevant insights to European policy makers on the importance of the Southern Ocean and the rapid melting of sea ice for sea level and Europe. We aim to highlight the accompanying implications for European policy and Antarctic research.

To register your interest in participating in this event, please use this form.

European Polar Board accepted as UNFCCC observer

The EPB has been accepted by the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC as an Observer organization. The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) has the objective to “estabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. As the polar regions are being most significantly affected by climate change, the polar regions are also one of the focus areas of the UNFCCC. The EPB looks forward to contributing to the UNFCCC process.

Further information: The European Polar Board is accepted as new UNFCCC observer

Policy Brief on the Impacts of High Fuel Prices on Polar Research

The Policy Brief on the Impacts of High Fuel Prices on Polar Research took place in November 2023 by the Policy Advisory Group of the European Polar Board. Find the whole Policy Brief here.

SO-CHIC webinars hosted by the European Polar Board

Southern Ocean Carbon and Heat Impact on Climate (SO-CHIC) is an EU-funded project (and member of the EU Polar Cluster) that aims to unlock understanding of some of the key Southern Ocean processes.  These represent the main limitation of the current generation of climate models in their way to represent past and future global heat and carbon cycles. The EPB organised 3 successful webinars introducing specific work packages of the project:

  • WP7 Webinar: Data management and connection to climate services, 16th March 2023
  • WP5 Webinar: Impact on the coupled climate system, 31st January 2023
  • WP6 Webinar: Variability and trends of heat, carbon uptake and storage, 8th December 2022

You can find video recordings from the webinars on the SO-CHIC YouTube channel.

SO-CHIC webinars hosted by the European Polar Board (photo: European Polar Board)

The eleventh Portuguese flight supporting the Antarctic Summer season 2022-23

On the 17th of February 2023, the PROPOLAR chartered flight, transported researchers and technicians between Punta Arenas (Chile) and the airfield Teniente R. Marsh in King George Island (South Shetlands, Antarctica), to support the austral summer season’s scientific field activities. This was the eleventh time that Portugal contributed with a flight to the international logistics effort supporting science in Antarctica. The inbound and outbound flights took place on the same day, transporting 81 researchers from the Portuguese, Bulgarian, Chilean, Czech and Spanish programs. All researchers followed health requirements in place to prevent the propagation of COVID-19 in Antarctica, and to protect those conducting activities on the White Continent. The flight also supported the Portuguese Antarctic Campaign 2022-23, integrating 7 projects, that ran from December till the beginning of March, with the support of several partner Antarctic programs.

Further information: PROPOLAR

Chartered flight preparing for departure from Punta Arenas (Chile) towards King George Island (Antarctica) (credits: Teresa Cabrita)

A nicely conducted campaign

The 36th Spanish Antarctic Campaign (2022/23), funded by Science and Innovation Ministry, has successfully concluded on the 21st March. The scientific activities distributed in 26 projects, focused on climate change, human pressure on marine benthos, penguin ecology, polar microbiology and aerobiology, bioaerosol and cloud formation, biological invasions, volcanic geochemistry, isostasy and sea level change, deglaciation evolution, glacier-ocean interactions, atmosphere composition and solar activity and cosmic rays, among others, together with the collection of long-term data series (magnetism, permafrost, geodetic, meteorological and volcanic surveillance of Deception Is). The Spanish Antarctic program hosted 8 research projects of Portugal, Chile, Canada, Germany and Colombia. About 230 people have participated, including scientists, technical personnel and crews, in the Spanish facilities: Juan Carlos I station and Byers Camp (Livingston Is.), Gabriel de Castilla  station (Deception Is.) and the Hesperides vessel.

Further information: Proyectos de la campaña antártica 2022-2023


UTM technical staff and DINGLAC researchers at Johnsons Glacier in Livingston Island (Photo: Joan Riba, Head of Juan Carlos I Base)

Dutch research on Antarctic Tourism

What is the impact of tourism on Antarctica, and how do you deal with this in policy? Ships are getting bigger, travel further and more often, and companies offer a growing range of activities. How does this impact Antarctica, and how can we continue to protect it? This is what the Dutch Research Agenda programme “Polar Tourism – Research Programme on Assessment of Impacts and Responses” (PT-REPAIR) aims to investigate with four compliant research projects. In doing so, they will support policy developments in the Netherlands and beyond with the aim of protecting the values of the Antarctic Treaty and the Netherlands Polar Strategy. The projects concern environmental stewardship, the tourist as an ambassador, instruments for public and private parties, and the cumulative effects on Antarctic biodiversity and wilderness values.

Further information: Four new projects about Antarctic Tourism

Tourist ship in Neko Harbour (photo: Frits Steenhuisen)

New chair of IASC SHWG / New Horizon project underway

Dr. Catherine Chambers was elected chair of the IASC Social and Human Working Group during ASSW. There is exciting work ahead for SHWG related to the updated strategic plan with new scientific priorities, and SHWG will play a lead role in addressing social and human research needs for ICARP IV.

Catherine began her term as the Icelandic representative to the SHWG in 2019 and is based at the Stefansson Arctic Institute and the University Centre of the Westfjords. Through the Stefansson Arctic Institute, Catherine is now working on an Arctic fisheries case study in a new EU Horizon Europe project called MarineSABRES. MarineSABRES aims to develop and demonstrate a Simple Ecological Systems framework for supporting ecosystem-based management and marine spatial planning in a rapid and integrative manner. The Arctic case study focuses on the pelagic fisheries of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland with co-design and co-production by stakeholders in the fisheries industry.

Further information: Marine SABRES

Catherine at sea in the Ísafjarðardjúp fjord system in the Westfjords of Iceland.

Polar Museum opens in Poland at the end of March

The Polish tradition of polar exploration in the Arctic and the Antarctic dates back to the end of the 19th century. Since the 2nd IPY 1932/1933, active participation in polar research has been important for Poland. The documentation of polar activities has always been close to the heart of Polish polar explorers. And now, there is finally a place to store souvenirs and show them to the world – the Polar Museum (Muzeum Polarne) in Puławy, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, Republic of Poland.

The exhibition consists of several parts: (1) The history of polar expeditions, (2) The material culture of the indigenous peoples of the North, (3) Flora and fauna of the Arctic and Antarctic, (4) Permafrost and glaciers, which are presented in original showpieces related to polar explorers’ equipment e.g.: sleds, skis, snowmobiles, ancient research instruments and the MI-2 helicopter participating in the expedition to A.B.Dobrowolski Station, East Antarctica, in 1979.

Further information: Polar Museum

(Photo: Polar Museum)

The power of ice that sculpted Fennoscandia’s landscape

New research from University of Oulu in Nature Communications reveals that the immense ice sheet that covered Fennoscandia during the last ice age excavated the equivalent bedrock volume of over 500 “Mount Everests”. During the last ice age, the Eurasian Ice Sheet was the third largest on Earth, spanning over 5,500 km from temperate conditions up across Fennoscandia to Svalbard and Siberia. Until now, the influence of this massive ice sheet on our landscape has not been fully realized, but a study by researchers Alun Hubbard and Henry Patton of Oulu and Tromso universities brings a new perspective on the impact of this ice during the last glacial. “At its peak melting, the Eurasian ice sheet was discharging more sediments than all rivers globally today. Our results illustrate not only how ice sheets can respond abruptly to environmental changes in decades, but also the huge knock-on effects for many of Earth’s other systems that extend well beyond ice sheet margins”, says Alun Hubbard.

Further information: Polar ice sculpted fennoscandias landscape

12 million euros from the Academy of Finland to strengthen the research profile areas at the University of Oulu

The Academy of Finland is supporting universities in strengthening their research profiles and has granted PROFI funding for the years 2023–2028. The University of Oulu was granted 12 million euros to support its strong research areas, which are related to sustainable materials and systems, digitalisation and climate change in the northern environment. The University of Oulu received PROFI funding for three research themes: Hydrogen Future as a Climate Change Solution (H2Future), Hybrid Intelligence: Human-AI Co-evolution and Learning in Multi-realities (HI) and Frontiers Arctic and Global Resilience (Front). New research themes strengthen existing research profile areas and link them to new multidisciplinary topics. The themes that have now received funding will receive matching funding from the University of Oulu for the amount of the Academy of Finland’s funding, and with the matching funding, this amounts to 24 million euros (e.g. 11 tenure track positions are opened).

Further information: 12 million euros to strengthen the research profile areas

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