Understanding the past to help predict the future

Climate change research in the Arctic on board the RV Celtic Explorer16 September 2020 - An Irish-led team of scientists on board the Marine Institute's RV Celtic Explorer will return to Galway Harbour today (16 September 2020), after 24 days in the Nordic and Greenland Seas to investigate past climate change in the Arctic region.

Scientists from NUI Galway, University of Southampton UK, University of Bremen, Germany, and Bergen University Norway, have been monitoring and capturing a record of temperature, salinity and the carbonate system to improve our understanding of essential climate variables in the Nordic and Greenland Seas and how they are recorded in geologic archives.

Lead scientist, Dr Audrey Morley, School of Geography and Archaeology, NUI Galway, said: "One of the key challenges in climate change science is assessing the magnitude of future climate change, due to our short observational records which are limited to the past 150 years. Our research is unique, as we are not only observing modern essential climate variables, but we will also look into the past to assess how essential climate variables have evolved since before pre-industrial conditions. This long-term perspective is crucial and will help us to better understand our environment and the environmental consequences of human activities."Dr Audrey Morley on the CIAAN survey. Photo Steve Churchett

The CIAAN survey (Constraining the Impact of Arctic Amplification in the Nordic Sea: A biogeochemical approach), aims to define a more comprehensive description of the Nordic Seas ecosystem and provide insight into how essential climate variables are recorded in geologic archives. Assessing the impact and magnitude of past (pre-industrial) climate changes is critical to further our understanding of how the climate system will respond to a rapidly changing Arctic ecosystem.

Dr Morley, NUI Galway, added: "The Arctic is a sensitive and vulnerable environment with regards to global warming. The North Atlantic and Nordic Seas are a key region for the formation of North Atlantic Deepwater and the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Whether or not this region will remain a carbon sink during rapidly warming climates is a question that remains to be answered."

A mutlicore from the Norwegian basion recovered during the CIAAN survey. Geochemistry of these layers will provide information on past climate change.As part of this research survey, the RV Celtic Explorer travelled to 79 Degrees North in the Greenland Sea, which is the highest latitude reached by the marine research vessel. To operate in the Arctic region, the RV Celtic Explorer was required to obtain a Polar Code Certification. The RV Celtic Explorer is the first Irish vessel to receive the Polar Code Certification, greatly increasing the ocean research capabilities of the vessel.

Dr Paul Connolly, CEO of the Marine Institute said, "There is a growing need for international scientists to work together to get a better understanding of the Arctic region, particularly in relation to what happened to climate variables in the past. The RV Celtic Explorer is crucial to facilitate this type of international research. This research in the Arctic region will deepen our knowledge of the region and will improve models that can forecast changes to our oceans and climate. This will inform effective policy and management decisions to meet the challenges posed by climate change."

Dr Audrey Morley is also President of the Network of Arctic Researchers in Ireland (NARI), which was launched by the Marine Institute and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in February 2020. The Network aims to create, maintain and develop an informal all-island network of Arctic researchers in Ireland to facilitate collaboration of scientific activities linked to the Arctic, and to provide independent scientific advice to the public and policy makers.

Video provided by Stephen Churchett.

The CIAAN survey received funding from the Marine Institute's National Research Vessels Ship-Time Programme.


For more information, please contact:
Sinéad Coyne e. sinead.coyne@marine.ie m. +353 (0)87 947 7090
Sheila Byrnes e. sheila.byrnes@marine.ie m. +353 (0)87 815 5271


Marine Institute
The Marine Institute is the state agency responsible for marine research, technology development and innovation in Ireland. It provides government, public agencies and the maritime industry with a range of scientific, advisory and economic development services that inform policy-making, regulation and the sustainable management and growth of Ireland's marine resources. www.marine.ie.