Contributing to an INTegrated ARtic Observation System around SVALBARD

The Arctic is undergoing the most rapid changes among all regions on the Earth. These changes, including the rapid sea ice decrease and air temperature warming, are affecting the Arctic ecosystems in terms of functioning, geographical distribution and communities. They are also suspected to influence the Northern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation and the European Climate. Increasing the in-situ observing capacity in the Arctic has become a major challenge owing to the current lack of data, mostly due to the difficulty in accessing these remote and harsh environments. The INTAROS-Svalbard aims at strengthening the observing capacity in a very important region of the Arctic with regards to on-going changes, the Svalbard region. This initiative is part of a wider one that is currently set-up within the EU-H2020 INTAROS (INTegrated Arctic Observation System) project. The ocean around Svalbard is a key-region for the Arctic climate, as it is a major pathway for the warm Atlantic water entering the Arctic Ocean, an area of intense ocean-ice-atmosphere interactions and a transition region between two very distinct Atlantic and Arctic biogeographic provinces.

The main objectives of the INTAROS-Svalbard project are (i) to better understand and monitor the environmental conditions which control the redistribution of the heat content of the Atlantic water inflow to the Arctic Ocean through Fram Strait, its links to sea ice and the thermohaline structure of the upper ocean in the region west and north of Svalbard, (ii) to better understand and monitor the interactions between waves and sea ice in the coastal zones of west Spitsbergen focusing on a major fjord, Kongsfjorden, (iii) to characterize the response of the biology and behavior of zoobenthic populations to sea ice evolution and hydrographic conditions in Kongsfjorden.

To achieve these objectives, gliders will be deployed in summer in Fram Strait and north of Svalbard. These high resolution measurements will provide a detailed characterization of the summer hydrography, hydrodynamical properties and mesoscale activity associated with the Atlantic inflow in the region extending across the western Spitsbergen slope and beyond. Mooring lines deployed on the northern slope of Svalbard will provide multi-year time series of current and water properties, helping to understand the link between the sea ice distribution, the upper ocean properties, the current dynamics and the cross slope exchanges. In Kongfjorden, passive acoustic signals recorded by hydrophones and measurements by accelerometers which will be installed on benthic bivalves will be used to monitor the biological activity. The separation of the acoustic signals between its biological and abiotic origins will allow to understand the biological activity in relation to the sea ice evolution and other environmental parameters. Wave-sea ice interactions will be investigated from the acoustic records and high resolution SAR imagery.