December 2021

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

EU-PolarNet 2 can look back to a successful year 2021 even if the ongoing pandemic has hindered some of the planned activities. Until now, the full consortium has not been able to meet in person and the 2nd EU-PolarNet 2 General Assembly took place as a hybrid meeting in October with the consortium attending online and the Executive Board in person from Brussels.

EU-PolarNet 2 has opened and evaluated its first Call for Services in 2021 and will announce the successful offers early in 2022. These services are an important contribution to our research prioritisation process. The other important piece is our newly formed Polar Expert Group consisting of many excellent experts who volunteered to become members of this group. We also updated our stakeholder map by mapping all stakeholder activities from relevant Polar projects including the EU Polar Cluster through an online stakeholder survey and summarising the results in a deliverable.

EU-PolarNet 2 organised several webinars in 2021, most of them jointly with the EPB and the EU Polar Cluster. Together we contributed to the EU Pavilion at the COP26 with a session on “Polar warming, global warming”. We also jointly organised a webinar discussing the new EU Arctic Policy with high-level speakers from the EC and the EEAS.

We have planned already several activities for 2022 and important deliverables will be published at the beginning of the year. We are looking forward to the first transdisciplinary EU-PolarNet 2 workshop jointly organised with our partner the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry in Kautokeino; Norway. The workshop is planned for early April and we cross our fingers that the pandemic allows us to carry it out.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Stay healthy!


Newsletter content

News from EU-PolarNet 2

Entering the second year – EU-PolarNet 2’s second General Assembly

One year into the project, it was time for the second EU-PolarNet 2 General Assembly, which took place as hybrid meeting in Brussels, Belgium, on 25 – 26 October 2022. More than 50 participants from the project, EU Polar Cluster members, representantives from the different Advisory Boards of the project and from the EC attended the meeting online. Divided into two parts, the first day provided an overview on the project achievements of the last year and was open to anyone interested in the work of EU-PolarNet 2. On the second day, the different EU-PolarNet 2 work packages discussed their progress and upcoming work. The second day focussed on discussing the research prioritisation process in EU-PolarNet.

The General Assembly was followed by a joint EU-PolarNet 2 and European Polar Board (EPB) session on the development of the European Polar Coordination Office (EPCO), which is the expected final outcome from the EU-PolarNet 2 project. The session aimed to jointly consolidate the concept and vision for the EPCO, and to develop its role and activities.

EU-PolarNet 2’s second General Assembly

Webinar “The new Arctic Policy”

EU-PolarNet 2, the European Polar Board (EPB) and the EU Polar Cluster jointly held the webinar ‘The new Arctic Policy and Research & Innovation’ on 24th November 2021. The EU representatives Michael Mann (EU Special Envoy for the Arctic, EEAS), Raphael Goulet (Head of Unit, European Commission, DG MARE) and Szilvia Nemeth (Deputy Head of Unit, European Commission, DG RTD) introduced the new EU Arctic Policy to the EU Polar Science community and discussed the role of Research & Innovation in the new strategy. Furthermore, the webinar showcased the contribution of EU Polar Cluster Members (Elaina Ford, EU Polar Cluster; Hugues Lantuit, Nunataryuk; Sigrun Jonasdottir, ECOTIP and Corine Wood-Donnelly, JUSTNORTH) to better understanding of changes in the Arctic, as well as to societal benefits.

A total audience of 139 people joined the webinar, including scientists from all fields of Arctic research and EU and other policymakers from over 20 different countries. A recording of the webinar can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

COP26 EU Pavilion side event: “Polar warming, global warming”

The session was organised by the EU Polar Cluster Members EU-PolarNet 2, SO-CHIC, PROTECT, TiPACCs, Arctic PASSION, and the EPB. World-leading Arctic and Antarctic climate scientists from within the Cluster projects provided scientific facts and community knowledge of polar change to protect and support adaptation, resilience and sustainability of communities and habitats. The session highlighted the impacts of changes in the Polar Regions on European society.

Representatives from the Alfred Wegener Institute, British Antarctic Survey, the European Polar Board, the Université libre de Bruxelles, and the University of Grenoble attended this side event in person in Brussels.

The recording of the event is available to rewatch here.

EU Climate Action Youtube Page

EU-PolarNet 2 Service Calls

Through the Service Calls, EU-PolarNet 2 is seeking support from the European research community to develop ideas for concrete research topics based on the Integrated European Polar Research Programme (EPRP).

We received nine offers for the first EU-PolarNet 2 Call for Services, which closed on 30 September 2021. Two of them will receive the EU-PolarNet 2 Service Contract.

At the beginning of 2022, EU-PolarNet 2 will open its second Call for Services on one of the four remaining research needs of the EPRP.

More information about the outcomes of the last Service Call and the opening of the next Call will be available on our website.

Coming soon: ‘Catalogue of national Polar programmes and other large-scale programmes’ and ‘Directory of Polar research funding programmes in Europe’

EU-PolarNet 2 is currently finalising two of its key documents, the “Catalogue of national Polar programmes and other large-scale programmes” and the “Directory of Polar research funding programmes in Europe”. The Catalogue will provide an overview about the responsibilities, research foci and governance structures in European countries performing Polar research. The heterogeneity of European National Polar programmes will make this catalogue an essential tool to facilitate the communication and the development of synergistic joint actions among the national programmes. The directory provides an overview about the governance, strategies, and procedures of Polar research funding in Europe and aims to contribute to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of European Polar research.

Do not miss the publication of the two documents in early spring 2022 and check our EU-PolarNet 2 news and follow us on Twitter.

EU Polar Cluster News

Since summer 2021, the EU Polar Cluster publishes its own regular newsletters. They aim to give you an update of the key inter-project activities. Please sign up here to receive the latest news from the EU Polar Cluster.

Partner highlights on polar research

A sensational discovery: Traces of rainforests in West Antarctica

An international team of researchers led by geoscientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, have now provided a new and unprecedented perspective on the climate history of Antarctica. In a sediment core collected in the Amundsen Sea, West Antarctica, in February 2017, the team discovered pristinely preserved forest soil from the Cretaceous, including a wealth of plant pollen and spores and a dense network of roots. These plant remains confirm that, roughly 90 million years ago, the coast of West Antarctica was home to temperate, swampy rainforests where the annual mean temperature was ca. 12 degrees Celsius – an exceptionally warm climate for a location near the South Pole. The researchers surmise that this warmth was only possible because there was no Antarctic ice sheet and because the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration was significantly higher than indicated by climate models to date.

Link to article »

For further science highlights »

Dr Johann P. Klages (AWI) and Prof Dr Tina van de Flierdt (Imperial College London) try to extract over-compacted sediment from the MeBo core catchers. (credits: Thomas Ronge; Alfred-Wegener-Institut)

World Press Photo Award for AWI Photographer

Caught in the glare of Polarstern’s spotlights, a curious mother polar bear and her cub explore the MOSAiC ice camp – with this image Esther Horvath, a photographer and photo editor at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), won the World Press Photo Award for an individual picture in the category “Environment”, as the World Press Photo Foundation announced on the evening of 16 April.

“For me as a photographer, winning a World Press Award is almost like taking home the Oscar in the film industry,” says Esther Horvath. “It’s always been one of my greatest dreams, and I’m delighted that I won it for my photographic coverage of the MOSAiC expedition.”

For further science highlights »

Polar bear mom and cub visit the ice floe and check out flags and equipment next to Polarstern vessel. October 10, 2019, Esther Horvath for The New York Times

3rd National Call for Polar Research in Bulgaria

The third National Call for Polar Research Projects opened in May 2021. Seven applications were received and evaluated by a commission of scientists. All were accepted. The research topics are fresh water hydrobiology (2), the complex geology of Bernard Point (1), human medicine (2), geophysics (1) and biological monitoring (1). The projects are two-year long, with exception of one and will be logistically supported by the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute. The plans are for the scientists to be at the Bulgarian Base St. Kliment Ohridski from the mid January 2022, depending on the evolution of the pandemics-related restrictions.

For further science highlights »

Scientific work at the Bulgarian Base`s aquatory, 2020 (credits: Bulgarian Antarctic Institute)

Beyond EPICA field campaign 2021/22

The Beyond EPICA project overcomes its second year of work, despite the cancellation of the field activities of 2020-21 due to COVID19 restrictions.

A field camp at Little Dome C has been established during the 2019-20 season and the material and equipment have been already transported from Europe to Antarctica. The next field season 2021-22 has already started and will last from November 2021 to January 2022.

Beyond EPICA coordinator, Carlo Barbante, participates in the 2021-22 field activities in a team of 12 people (in total 6 scientists/drillers and 6 logistics in the field) with the aim to finalise the camp, set-up the drilling area, along with the drilling of the pilot hole, reaming the hole and installation of the casing. The complete drill system is planned to be installed and tested towards the end of the season. The temporary storage cave at Little Dome C Camp will be also planned to be completed during the next field season.

For further science highlights »

Little Dome C Camp (January 2020) (credits: J. Schwander)

The National Centre for Climate Research in Denmark

National Centre for Climate Research (NCKF) has been established in 2020 to support green transition and climate adaptation in the Kingdom of Denmark and let Denmark take a leading position within climate science.

NCKF performs research in the most critical areas, collects knowledge and bridges climate research across the Danish Kingdom through collaborations across universities, knowledge institutions, authorities and decision makers – also international collaborations.

On the Arctic areas specifically:

– NCKF monitors, analyses and predicts the balance of the ice caps and the historical development, since this is essential to the level of the oceans.

– NCKF has a close focus on the effect of global warming on the ice around Greenland and in the Arctic Ocean – through remote sensing, observations and models, climate time series for sea ice captured from satellite.

Field surveys in the Arctic, NCKF (credits: Steffen M. Olsen, Danish Meteorological Institute)

The International Arctic Hub

The International Arctic Hub (Arctic Hub) is a secretariat established by the governments of Greenland and Denmark in 2020. The secretariat’s purpose is to enhance interdisciplinary international cooperation related to Arctic research, education and innovation in Greenland. IAH is financed by both Denmark (DKK 3 million) and Greenland (DKK 0.75 million) via the Finance Act.

The Arctic Hub will be an important link in building networks and partnerships between local, national, and international researchers. Furthermore, its intention is to strengthen communication between national and international research and education and Greenlandic citizens, industry, political decision-makers and stakeholders and contribute to evidence-based sustainable development in Greenlandic communities.

The secretariat is located within the facilities of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources in Nuuk. As of November 1st 2020 Anna-Sofie Skjervedal took up the position as head of secretariat.

For further science highlights »

Launch of the College on Polar and Extreme Environments (POLAR2E)

Framed within the initiative of the University of Lisbon to promote research excellency and interdisciplinary cooperation among its different schools, the proposal for the creation of the College on Polar and Extreme Environments (POLAR2E) has been approved in 2020, with its regulations implemented in June 2021. POLAR2E aims at creating synergies between research teams of ULisboa in areas such as the cryosphere, climate modelling, ecology, remote sensing, social sciences, astrobiology, engineering and aerospace technologies, linking them to other research domains in the university. Currently POLAR2E is a collaboration between IGOT – the Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning, ISCSP – Institute of Social and Political Sciences, IST – The Instituto Superior Técnico and FCUL – The Faculty of Sciences, involving several research centres and laboratories.

The specific objectives of Polar2E are:

  • Promoting scientific and technological synergies, maximising sharing of resources and logistics.
  • Consolidating the critical mass on Polar sciences, Planetary sciences and Astrobiology, enlarging it to other schools of ULisboa.
  • Consolidating the international relevance of ULisboa, by increasing its scientific impact and attracting new funding and partnerships.
  • Foster new international partnerships in post-graduate teaching, research and technology.

For further science highlights »

Marine plastic pollution in the Arctic

Plastic in the ocean is an increasing global problem. Plastic debris harms marine flora and fauna, and degrades coastal areas and ecosystems. It also has social and economic consequences.

In the summer of 2021, the Norwegian Polar Institute and partners carried out an extensive research cruise to study plastic pollution in the ocean and coastal areas around Svalbard. Samples of air, sea ice, ocean surface waters, the deep water column, sediments, fish and benthic organisms were collected. The analysis of this comprehensive data set will greatly improve our understanding of the distribution of plastic pollution in Arctic waters and provide the basis for assessing and further improving the methods being used for sample collection and analysis. Findings will be fed into Arctic Council working groups AMAP and PAME’s processes set up to establish monitoring and action plans to tackle the growing problem of marine plastic pollution in the Arctic.

For further science highlights »

New samples collected by divers under sea ice (credits: Trine Lise Sviggum Helgerud, Norwegian Polar Institute)

30th anniversary of the icebreaker Oden at the North Pole

On 16 August 2021 at 20:46 UTC, the Swedish icebreaker Oden arrived at the North Pole for the tenth time. The first visit was made in 1991 when Oden was the first non-nuclear-powered ship to reach the North Pole together with the German research icebreaker Polarstern. Since then, Oden has been to the North Pole in 1996, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2016 and 2018.

The visit to the North Pole took place within the research expedition Synoptic Arctic Survey, which started on 25 July. During the expedition, researchers from seven countries investigated the marine ecosystem between Greenland and the North Pole with an ambitious sampling program for hydrographic, chemical, and biological parameters.

The area has previously been unexplored due to the difficult ice conditions, but with the help of Oden, the researchers can for the first time collect data here. This will be important for understanding how the ecosystem in the central Arctic works and is affected by a warmer climate.

For further science highlights »

Participants in Synoptic Arctic Survey 2021 at the North Pole (credits: Hans-Jørgen Hansen)

Launch of Swiss polar programmes

In 2021, the Swiss Polar Institute opened a call for the submission of the first Swiss polar Flagship programmes. These ambitious multi-annual programmes will combine science and technology projects from different disciplines and different groups/institutions in Switzerland around a polar or remote high altitude focus region.

The funding will support field campaigns (logistics, safety, etc.), data management, outreach and programme coordination, thus providing temporary infrastructure for a Swiss-led polar or remote high-altitude research programme. In order to maximise the programmes’ impact, international collaboration and incorporation of their data into international initiatives and platforms will be at the core of the Flagship programmes.

The evaluation of the future Flagships is ongoing and the result will be made public in December 2021. The programmes will start their work in 2022.

For further science highlights »

SPI Flagship Initiatives (credits: © 2021 Matthias Buschmann, all rights reserved)

The Arctic Century expedition 2021

Organised by SPI (Switzerland), AARI (Russia) and GEOMAR (Germany), the Arctic Century Expedition is a multidisciplinary expedition dedicated to the study of rarely accessible and remote areas in the Kara and Laptev Sea, as well as on Franz Josef Land and Severnaya Zemlya in the western Arctic.

The scientific programme focuses on the atmosphere, cryosphere, marine and terrestrial environment in a rapidly changing Arctic climate. Scientific projects on board were carried out by an international team of 59 researchers.

The expedition left Murmansk on 5 August 2021, onboard the research icebreaker Akademik Tryoshnikov. After a transit of three days work started in the Kara Sea. Thereafter a comprehensive terrestrial and glaciological working program took place in Franz Josef Land and Severnaya Zemlya. The marine working programme focused on key areas of the Saint Anna Trough, the Kara Sea continental margin and the central Kara Sea. The expedition returned to Murmansk on 6 September 2021.

For further science highlights »

Cruise path of the Arctic Century Expedition (credits: © 2021 Swiss Polar Institute, CC BY 4.0)

How climate change affects the Arctic: ocean, land and biodiversity

The University of Oulu is engaged in different studies related to the impact of climate change on the Arctic region. Prof. Jeff Welker is leading an Arctic expedition aimed at investigating the phenomena of Freshening and Fertilization that are hitting the Arctic ocean.

The new source of atmospheric moisture derived from sea-ice loss is also the cause of extreme heavy snowfall across Northern Europe, as discovered by Dr Bailey and team in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. The research is the first of its kind to directly link sea ice loss with extreme snowfall; more details can be found in the articles published by Nature Geoscience and National Geographic.

Climate change also affects the biodiversity and ecosystem; researchers are examining the reduction of animal abundance in the Arctic by using moths and birds as study systems. Moreover, another research group is developing new solutions for reindeer herders, since climate change is obstructing their traditional practices.

For further science highlights »

Human health risks in the Arctic

The University of Oulu is developing many studies focusing on improving human health in the Arctic. One research deals with health risks associated with contaminants, in particular with mercury, whilst the study group NUNATARYUK explores the risk framework for Arctic coastal communities which are affected by permafrost thawing, a consequence of climate change. In addition, the project “Biosecurity of the Arctic” supports public health systems in reacting to future biological threats, resulting from permafrost thawing.

Attention is also directed to specific groups; indeed, researchers at the University of Oulu are working on Sami reindeer herders’ mental health, but also on youth and elderly health issues, respectively in the projects “Arctic Youth and Sustainable Futures” and NORRUS_AGE.

Finally, the University of Oulu is involved in Arctic cooperation on health through the projects “One Arctic, One Health”, the “Lancet Commission on Arctic Health” and the “NDI Think Tank Action”.

For further science highlights »

1Reindeer husbandry in Northern Finland (credits:

Estonians to sail to Arctic to draw attention to climate change

In summer 2021 (July to October), a group of Estonian sailors and scientists were on a sailing trip to the Arctic. The purpose of the trip was to draw attention to climate change in the region.

During the Arctic expedition, a popular science film was shot, as well as the collection of water and soil samples for Estonian researchers. The Admiral Bellingshausen expedition offers a unique opportunity to gather additional data on Arctic climate change. During the expedition, the vessel crossed very different areas, which gives the study a broad spatial scope and allows the comparison of data. Due to the smaller draft, it is also possible to collect data from shallow waters close to the shore, and the lower speed of the sailing ship also ensures better data quality.

At the Bellingshausen, water samples were collected from the near-surface layer to determine dissolved gases (mainly methane). A common challenge in Arctic research is the scarcity of data and the difficulty of obtaining it. The scientific research carried out during Admiral Bellingshausen’s Arctic expedition also makes it possible to gather data from places that scientists do not reach, thus making an invaluable contribution to the development of Arctic citizen science.

The Dutch-built ketch Admiral Bellingshausen visits Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Spitsbergen mountains and the Norwegian fjords.

Sailboat Admiral Bellingshausen in Tallinn, Estonia (credits: Estonian Maritime Museum)

Highlights of Polar programmes

A glimpse on Swiss Polar Institute

By the early 20th century, Swiss scientists were active in the Arctic and Antarctic, using their experience in high altitudes and drawing parallels to the processes observed in the Alps – the Third or Vertical Pole. Switzerland is a major player, both in the field of polar science and in comparative high-altitude studies, by a combination of renowned natural sciences expertise and outstanding technological/ analytical capability. This comprises the full spectrum from field observation, in situ process studies and remote sensing to modelling of Earth system components.

The Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) implements dedicated funding schemes, international collaboration, services and activities at the service of this community. SPI is a foundation under Swiss law. It is funded by the Swiss government, by Swiss public research institutions, as well as by private foundations and donors. SPI is recognised as a “research facility of national importance” by the Swiss government.

The Swiss Polar Institute’s main contribution within EU PolarNet concentrates on WP4 on “Research optimisation”. In particular, SPI works with partners on how cooperative actions and joint programming initiatives can add value and enable more synergetic use of European resources in Polar research.

The Swiss polar community is present throughout Switzerland at ETH domain institutions (ETHZ, EPFL, WSL-SLF, PSI, …) as well as at numerous cantonal universities (University of Bern, University of Zurich, University of Lausanne or Fribourg, notably). In addition, the Swiss polar science community benefits from links with expertise located within Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) and industry, for example when it comes to technology development, materials, miniaturisation, etc. Funding and support from the Swiss Polar Institute is available to all scientists from all fields of science active at Swiss research institutions and working in polar or remote high-altitude regions. It acts as “glue” and community building institution as well as helps launch collaborative initiatives and expeditions.

Swiss polar research is inherently bottom up and not lead by thematic or geographic priorities. Funding for polar and high-altitude science attributed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is based on scientific merit and open to all disciplines. Funding for field work and programmes by the Swiss Polar Institute complements the opportunities offered by the SNSF. It is also open to all disciplines. In 2022, the Swiss Polar Institute will announce the launch of two large polar “Flagship programmes”, thereby enabling the establishment of multiannual and interdisciplinary Swiss-led polar programmes. In 2019, the Swiss Polar Institute published an overview of the Swiss polar community and polar science. The document “Swiss Polar Science – Priorities up to 2025 and beyond” outlines the strengths of the Swiss polar community, its ambitions, the challenges it faces and proposes measures and priorities to enhance the impact of Swiss Polar science.

SPI Flagship Initiatives (credits: © 2021 Matthias Buschmann, all rights reserved)

A glimpse on Institute of Geology, Tallinn University of Technology

IGTUT (Institute of Geology, Tallinn University of Technology) is one of the leading institutions in Estonia conducting climate and environmental research in both polar Regions. In 2012 the institute was contracted by the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research to coordinate the preparation of the Estonian Polar research programme for 2014-2020 in cooperation with all the research groups active in this area in Estonian universities and R&D institutes. The programme was created and accepted but because of limited finances available for R&D has been suspended and is currently under updating.

Greenland Scoresby Sund. Soilsampling (credits: CJ Kask - Rein Vaikmäe)

From 2001 Estonia has the non-consultative status in the Antarctic Treaty system. The Estonian Ministry of Environment is currently developing the law of joining the Madrid Protocol.

In  EU-PolarNet 2 IGTUT participates in WP1, WP2 and WP5.

Filtration of water samples on the yacht (credits: Tiit Pruuli - Rein Vaikmäe)

In the Arctic, the Estonian polar community usually has been working on Svalbard but also in Arctic Siberia. In Antarctica research is performed at different Antarctic bases: in Aboa Station, on King George Island, in Esperanza Station and on Seymour Island in cooperation with our foreign partners. In summer 2021 the Estonian Maritime Museum and the non-profit Thetis Expedition undertook a successful voyage to the Arctic on the yacht “Admiral Bellingshausen”. The reason for this voyage was the Republic of Estonia`s bid to become an observer member of the Arctic Council. The purpose of this trip was to draw attention to climate change in the Arctic and to show the vulnerabilities of the Arctic environment and the local (indigenous) peoples to climate change.

It highlighted the importance of science in understanding and combating climate change. Several Estonian polar researchers took part in the expedition to study the methane level and contamination in sea water

Soil sampling on Svalbard (credits: Maris Pruuli - Rein Vaikmäe)

Curious about what’s up next? From Arctic Frontiers 2022 to Year of Polar Prediction (YOPP) Final Summit – get a first glimpse of where to meet up with EU-PolarNet 2 this year.
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