Tracking climate change


DFG funds the first European drilling expedition to the North Pole

In August 2004, a new and exciting chapter will be opened in the history of Arctic research. In the Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX), three icebreakers will set off in the direction of the North Pole to extract cores from beneath the Arctic seafloor. By investigating marine sediments, an international team of scientists will trace the history of the climatic environment of the Arctic over the last 50 million years, from the time before sea ice first appeared in the Arctic to the present climatic period that is marked by the greenhouse effect caused by humans. This will be the deepest oceanic sediment core yet to be extracted from the Arctic. On completion of the expedition, the cores will be brought to the DFG Ocean Margins Research Centre's core repository at the University of Bremen, where an international group of scientists will carry out detailed investigations in November. ACEX is the first European contribution to a new international research programme in geosciences, the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP), which the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) will fund over the next ten years with approximately 50 million.

From a scientific, technical and logistical point of view, this expedition to the North Pole is a spectacular project. For the first time, sedimentary cores are to be extracted from beneath the ice-covered Arctic Ocean an environmental archive that will yield information about the climate changes of past ages. The cores give information on water temperature, salt content and ocean currents and, in addition, will show how and when the Arctic sea ice was formed. This information will be highly significant to our understanding of global climate changes. The drillings will be carried out very close to the pole, on the Lomonosov Ridge. This sub-ocean mountain range stretches from northern Greenland, across the Polar Sea, to Siberia. Extracting sediments from below the Arctic seabed is a major logistical exercise. The expedition will therefore be carried out by three icebreakers: the Vidar Viking, a specially equipped drillship, the Swedish Oden and the Russian nuclear-powered icebreaker, Sovetskiy Soyuz. The drillings will be carried out at a depth of about 1,000 metres by the Vidar Viking. The task of the other two icebreakers will be to protect the drillship from drifting ice floes and metre-thick pack ice during the three weeks or so that it will take to complete drilling work.

In November 2003, the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling, ECORD, was formed to join the IODP as a European-Canadian joint initiative and make the infrastructure available for special research projects. The USA and Japan, the other partners in the IODP, will each provide one drillship. Projects such as ACEX, for which these ships would be unsuitable, will be organised and financed by ECORD. The DFG was a main driving force behind the preparations for ECORD and now makes the largest financial contribution, next to France and Great Britain.

The DFG Ocean Margins Research Centre in Bremen occupies a key position in this project as one of the four centres in the world that maintain a core repository. These core repositories are meeting points for marine geoscientists from many nations.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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