CATS - The Changing Arctic Transpolar System

Contact: Dr. Heidemarie Kassens

With the joint Russian-German research project „CATS – The Changing Arctic Transpolar System“, a consortium of 10 research institutions and universities in Russia and Germany aims to assess how climate change will affect the highly sensitive Arctic environment and to what extent these changes may impact the climate in Europe. The main research region is the west­ern Laptev Sea shelf and continental slope, Vilkitsky Strait and Cape Baranov (Severnaya Zemlya), located in the Russian EEZ. This topographically complex region features strong polynyas and sea-ice formation, and a variety of shelf processes that may impact the circulation and water masses of the Arctic Boundary Current near the beginning of the Transpolar Drift system. The Arctic Boundary Current transports a large amount of heat along the continental slope, which could potentially melt the entire Arctic sea-ice cover if released to the surface.

CATS will generate new sea-ice, ocean, and atmosphere datasets based on satellites, ship­board expeditions and autonomous sampling techniques, by use of, for instance, year-round multidisciplinary ocean observatories that will be operated in the central and north­western Laptev Sea, or by Cape Baranov-based atmospheric boundary layer measurements. Ship-based oceanographic and biogeochemical surveys will be carried out. The study will focus on relevant subjects as shelf processes and their impact on the Arctic Boundary Current, sea-ice retreat, changes of atmosphere/sea-ice/ocean interactions, bio­geochemical cycles, as well as on ecological consequences of climate change by use of field observa­tions, multi-sensor satellite remote sensing, and coupled atmosphere/sea-ice/ocean models. Further­more, the long-term varia­bi­lity of the Arctic transpolar system will be assessed using histo­rical data for statistical models (1950s to present). Sediment cores from the western Laptev Sea and Vilkitsky Strait will be used to investigate the pre-industrial environment in a region that is critical for understanding the impact of global warming on the Arctic sea ice, ocean, and climate system.

Funding body: BMBF, Russia: Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation in the framework of the program of funding bilateral joint projects within the framework of scientific-technical cooperation in the field

Project period: March 1, 2017 - February 29, 2020

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