Norsk Polarinstitutt driver forvaltningsrettet naturvitenskapelig forskning, kartlegging og overvåking i Arktis og Antarktis. Klima, miljøgifter, biologisk mangfold og geologisk kartlegging er viktige arbeidsfelt for instituttet.

Ocean and sea ice

We conduct research and monitoring in physical and chemical oceanography and sea ice physics, which contributes to the institute’s ability to advise on the current status and changes of ocean and sea ice properties and processes in the Polar regions, quantifying and mapping these properties and their changes, and improving our understanding of processes in the polar oceans to improve climate and process models and future predictions.

Special emphasis is placed on long-term monitoring of ocean and sea ice status and changes in the regions Fram Strait, around Svalbard, the Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard, and the Southern Ocean north of Dronning Maud Land.

Projects

Fram Strait

This long-term project monitors the ocean currents and sea ice leaving the Arctic Ocean through Fram Strait.

The project maintains a mooring array which provides a continuous, high-resolution time series of temperature, salinity, velocity and sea ice thickness measurements in the Arctic outflow. Additional measurements, as well as water samples and sea ice cores are collected along an annually repeated section every September when the mooring array is serviced.

The Fram Strait Arctic Outflow Observatory

A-TWAIN

Long-term variability and trends in the Atlantic Water inflow region (A-TWAIN)

Warm water that flows northward from the Atlantic and into the Arctic Ocean plays a crucial role for regional environmental conditions. The Fram Centre ‘Arctic Ocean’ project A-TWAIN collects data on the variability and changes in the Atlantic Water that enters the Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard, through moorings and bi-annual ship-borne surveys.

A-TWAIN

Fimbul ice shelf

The Fimbul Ice Shelf is an ice shelf located in Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica. The aim of the expedition to the Fimbul Ice Shelf is to understand the interaction between the Antarctic ice sheet and the ocean.

Our work studies connected atmosphere-ice shelf-sea ice-ocean processes, melting processes, and hydrography and circulation in the ocean underneath and north of the floating ice. The interactions between the ocean and the cryosphere in Antarctica are important processes for regional and global climate, and for the ecosystem.

Related earlier project

Nansen Legacy

logo ice breaking in seaThe Nansen Legacy is a novel and holistic Arctic research project that provides the integrated scien-tific knowledge base required for the sustainable management through the 21st century of the environment and marine resources of the Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Basin.

An ice-free Arctic is gradually emerging. Wintertime sea ice retreat is to date most pronounced in the Barents Sea, the Atlantic gateway to the Arctic. The knowledge basis for sustainable management of this changing environment and the associated resources is an urgent scientific challenge.

Nansen Legacy

Biodiversity

We conduct monitoring and research activities in marine and terrestrial environments in both Polar Regions. Key ecosystem components and linkages among them and the physical environments that comprise their habitats, are particular focal points for programmes in Biodiversity.

Knowledge required for management of hunted species and species under threat (“Red Listed”) dictate central monitoring and research themes in the research group; climate change impacts are a unifying theme across many programmes. Demographic and ecological studies dominate NPI’s Biodiversity programme project portfolio.

Monitoring

Polar bear monitoring

mosj logoOur polar bear research forms part of the Environmental Monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen Programme (MOSJ).

The Norwegian Polar Institute’s polar bear monitoring programme was initiated during the 1960s, and is now one of the longest-running series for Svalbard fauna. The majority of the data in this time series comes from the annual field trips to capture and mark polar bears, and record dens in key areas.

Since the late 1980s, data has been acquired from over 1,500 polar bears, including more than 700 recaptures, which have provided information on body condition, survival rates and reproduction during a period with substantial changes in the environment. It has also enabled many studies to be carried out relating to ecotoxicology and habitat use.

The den studies have revealed dramatic changes as regards den locations in relation to changes in ice conditions. This monitoring programme is also contributing many useful research results within the fields of demographics, population genetics, diet, health and disease.

MOSJ- polar bear

COAT

logo coatClimate-Ecological Observatory for Arctic Tundra (COAT)

COAT is a monitoring/observation programme created to document the effects of climate changes on Arctic tundra systems.

COAT Svalbard comprises several modules, covering arctic fox, Svalbard rock ptarmigan, Svalbard reindeer, geese and moss-tundra vegetation. The programme aims to demonstrate causal relationships between parts of the food web and climate changes and other anthropogenic influences.

COAT links the terrestrial monitoring being carried out under MOSJ (Environmental Monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen) with the land module of SIOS (Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System) and the Fram Centre terrestrial flagship programmes.

COAT

SEAPOP

logo to fugler rygg mot ryggSEAPOP (SEAbird POPulations) is a seabird monitoring programme which began back in 2005. The programme combines the long-term demographic monitoring of various populations with diet and tracking studies in order to determine the mechanisms which govern the population dynamics and prevalence of the seabirds.

In Svalbard and Jan Mayen, seven species are being monitored: common guillemot, thick-billed guillemot, kittiwake, glaucous gull, ivory gull, great skua and little auk. Fulmar, northern gannet and puffins are also being monitored.

SEAPOP

CEMP

logoSince the late 1990s, NPI has conducted monitoring of krill-predators on Bouvetøya to tell us about ecosystem form and function. This programme is a national obligation in service of CCAMLR (The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources).

The island is in a region of the Southern Ocean which received very little fishing effort, making it an ideal location to characterise predator performance in the absence of fishing.  Research expeditions have recently come into a three-year cycle of field effort. The flighted bird, penguin and fur seal CEMP monitoring also affords the opportunity for research programmes on the island, which currently include:

  • Feeding specialists, or flexible foragers?
  • Circumpolar genetic structure of two Southern Ocean predators, the Antarctic fur seal and the macaroni penguin
  • What males want: adult male Antarctic fur seal foraging ecology throughout the Southern Ocean
  • Now they do, now they don’t: Inter-decadal patterns of resource exploitation in two sympatrically breeding penguin species

CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program (CEMP)

Projects

Seabird tracking (2014-2018)

SEATRACK aims to map the non-breeding distribution of seabirds breeding in colonies encircling the Barents, Norwegian and North Seas, which includes colonies in Russia, Norway incl. Svalbard and Jan Mayen, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Great Britain.

No fewer than 11 species from 36 breeding colonies are being studied in this programme. Key marine areas are being mapped as regards the various species and colonies. The way in which the environmental conditions in the areas where the birds live outside the breeding season impact on the species’ demographics and population trends is also being studied.

To date, over 10,000 GLS loggers have been attached to birds from the five participating nations.

SEATRACK

SEAPOP

ICE-WHALES (2015-2019)

This programme is studying the prevalence and status of the three endemic ice-associated whales in Svalbard (bowhead whale, beluga whale and narwhal) in relation to climate changes and possible interactions with populations of summer-visiting whale species.

This programme also includes population size studies, studies of diet and health, as well as extensive tracking studies. Ongoing projects under this programme include satellite tracking of bowhead whale, beluga whale, fin whale and blue whale. An aerial count of whales along the coast of Svalbard, which was carried out in the summer of 2018, produced estimates of over 300 bowhead whale and 800 narwhal.

Analyses of several years of sound recordings from a passive acoustic receiver in the northwestern part of Framstredet has made it possible to study the acoustic environment in a key reproductive area for bowhead whale from the Svalbard population. The analyses show that this area is relatively unaffected by man-made sounds during the winter and that singing by these whales dominates the noise picture. However, noise from seismic activity is heard during an average of 12 hours a day during the summer months.

Romlig økologi hos fjellrev (2012-2019)

Per i dag har man lite kunnskap om bevegelsesmønstrene til fjellrev på Svalbard. Hovedhensikten med dette prosjektet er å studere vandringsmønstrene til fjellrev for å fremskaffe data som kan brukes i forvaltningen av denne jaktbare arten.

En mulig negativ klimaindusert effekt på fjellreven på Svalbard er den pågående reduksjonen i sjøisdekke. Fjellrev bruker sjøisen i utstrakt grad om våren i forbindelse med matauk. Når denne reduseres eller forsvinner er da spørsmålet hvordan revene bruker den isen som er igjen, og hvordan de eventuelt vil kunne erstatte de energireservene de i dag legger på seg som følge av is-assosierte byttedyr (hovedsaklig ringselunger og rester fra sel som er tatt av isbjørn).

Ved hjelp av satellittsporing er vandringsdata fra hele årssyklus samlet inn fra 54 individer i perioden 2012-2017. De fleste revene holdt seg i Svalbardområdet, men en ung hunnrev vandret på sjøisen helt over til Grønland og brukte kun 14 dager på denne passasjen! Med et par unntak holdt de fleste revene seg innenfor et område på 90 km fra der de ble påsatt senderne. Fjellrevene vandret i gjennomsnitt 6,6 km per dag, men ned stor individuell variasjon; fra 0,5 km til 72,6 km per dag. Prosjektet vil fortsette med å sette satellittsendere på fjellrev de to neste årene.

Geology and geophysics

We work with various aspects of glaciology, atmospheric science, marine geology, and bedrock geology, in both the Arctic and Antarctica. Much research is directly based on field observations, giving us crucial information on the changes and effect of climate in polar system.

Tasks involved monitoring, mapping and process studies.

Monitoring

Kongsfjorden marine sediments

The twin aims of this project are to monitor marine environmental and climate changes from year to year and to establish natural reference values for arctic marine ecosystems and climate systems. To obtain data, we take geochemical measurements of marine clay, fossil plankton and fossil fauna which we find in the sediments. We are doing this in order to relate annual changes to time periods without human influence, and it is much a longer period of time than we can cover using instrumental measurements in Kongsfjorden.

Snow and soot

We have been taking regular snow samples in Ny-Ålesund since 2009. These samples are analysed to determine the content of soot (black carbon) in the snow. Soot particles from the atmosphere are deposited on the snow and contribute to warming through the albedo effect. We take samples both at Austre Brøggerbreen and at Gruvebadet in Ny-Ålesund.   

Atmospheric radiation (Troll og Zeppelin)

Atmospheric radiation is continuously measured at the Zeppelin Observatory in Ny-Ålesund and at the Troll Research Station in Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Both sites have instruments mounted on a platform which moves with the sun, enabling us to measure the light that comes directly from the sun separately from what is dispersed by the atmosphere and originates from the rest of the sky. One instrument measures all incoming sunlight from all directions, while another measures infrared light radiated by the atmosphere. Using these measurements, we are able to monitor an important part of the climate system – the energy that is available to heat the surface of the Earth. We can also better understand the importance of processes in the atmosphere that affect sunlight and the radiation of infrared light (e.g. clouds).

Mass balance glaciers

Kongsfjorden

The mass balance of certain glaciers is measured in the field by obtaining data in the spring and autumn. This data is used to calculate the winter balance (accumulation) and summer balance (melting), which are then added together to produce the net balance, the annual state of health of the glacier between two consecutive autumn measurements. The mass balance primarily depends on precipitation in the winter and temperature in the summer, but calving and marine melting are also important for some glaciers which terminate in the sea.

Mass balance is measured in the field for only a few glaciers in Svalbard, which are located almost exclusively along the west coast of Spitsbergen. The Norwegian Polar Institute is currently measuring the mass balance of four glaciers in the Kongsfjord area: Austre Brøggerbreen (since 1967), Midtre Lovénbreen (since 1968), Kongsvegen (since 1987) and Kronebreen/Holtedahlfonna (since 2003).

Read more about measuring the mass balance of glaciers in Svalbard

Austfonna

The Norwegian Polar Institute and the University of Oslo are cooperating concerning the taking of mass balance measurements on Etonbreen, an arm of Austfonna. Austfonna is the largest ice cap in Svalbard and has been monitored using a weather station and annual mass balance measurements since 2004. Extensive, gently sloping formations and relatively easy access make Austfonna ideal for the calibration and validation of satellite data and climate models with relevance to the larger ice masses of Greenland and Antarctica. As part of the CryoVEX programme of the European Space Agency (ESA), regular programmes have been carried out using coordinated aerial and ground-based readings for comparison with satellite data. The mass balances from Etonbreen on Austfonna form part of the climate monitoring being carried out under MOSJ with annual updates.

Projects

OCTEL

Ocean - sea ice - atmosphere teleconnections between the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic during the Holocene (OCTEL)Ocean – sea ice – atmosphere teleconnections between the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic during the Holocene (OCTEL)

The joint Indo-Norwegian research project aims to explore the ocean, sea-ice and atmosphere interactions both in the Southern Ocean and the northern North Atlantic in order to assess the manifestation of interhemispheric teleconnections and their influence on climate during last 11 700 years (the Holocene) with a special focus on the last 2 000 years.

OCTEL

MADICE (2016–2020)

madice logo

Mass balance, dynamics, and climate of the central Dronning Maud Land coast, East Antarctica (MADICE).

This 4-year project investigates how the coastal area of the Antarctic ice sheet has changed in the last several millennia.

MADICE

Facebook

Beyond Epica-Oldest Ice (BE-OI)

The ultimate goal of this project is to contribute data for a future deep ice core borehole in order to find 1.5-million year old ice from East Antarctica

The first phase of the project is being funded through the EU Horizon 2020 Coordination and Support Action call (2016 – 2019), which involves a consortium of 14 European institutions, including the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Dome C and Dome F are the two candidates defined in the first phase. The Beyond EPICA project comprises several phases involving drilling and analysis, which will continue over the next ten years.

Beyond EPICA

Kongsvegen geophysical observatory

Observations of various atmospheric and glaciological aspects of the equilibrium line altitude at Kongsvegen will contribute to mass balance modelling and process understanding, as well as improved monitoring of the extensive area of Spitsbergen that is covered by glaciers.

TIGRIF

TIdewater Glacier Retreat Impact on Fjord circulation and ecosystems

The main objective is to assess what happens to fjord circulation and ecosystems when tidewater glaciers retreat to the point where they no longer terminate in water but on dry land. This will be done using an ocean circulation model and scenarios of glacier retreat. Modelling will be performed on the Kongsfjord system in north-western Svalbard. This project has been financed by the Research Council of Norway (program HAVKYST).

TIGRIF

Nansen Legacy

logo ice breaking in seaThe Nansen Legacy is a novel and holistic Arctic research project that provides the integrated scien-tific knowledge base required for the sustainable management through the 21st century of the environment and marine resources of the Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Basin.

An ice-free Arctic is gradually emerging. Wintertime sea ice retreat is to date most pronounced in the Barents Sea, the Atlantic gateway to the Arctic. The knowledge basis for sustainable management of this changing environment and the associated resources is an urgent scientific challenge.

Nansen Legacy

HOLIS

Holocene ocean and sea ice history at North-East Svalbard – from past to present warm extremes (HOLIS)

The main aim of this project is to advance our understanding of the sea’s impact on climate warming in the Arctic, by studying current and past changes in marine and sea ice conditions north of Svalbard during warm periods.

Despite the relatively good documentation of contemporary changes in the Arctic, it is vital to obtain a more long-term overview of previous environmental changes in order to evaluate the natural reference values of the Arctic marine and climate system, particularly for the Arctic, which is still underrepresented in existing data networks.

HOLIS

NARE geology

NARE Geology is a survey and research programme in Queen Maud Land.

Most of the Antarctic is covered by ice, but where the mountains project up out of the ice, they are completely devoid of vegetation, giving geologists a unique opportunity to study the origins of the bedrock and the various geological process which have impacted on the Earth’s crust. Through field expeditions, the Norwegian Polar Institute collects geological map data, rock samples and field observations. Key scientific questions for NARE Geology are linked to metamorphic, structural, geochronological and tectonic studies of the mountain chain.

Environmental pollution

We conduct research on how environmental pollutants and plastics are included in Arctic food chains, their sources, accumulation and long-term trends. We study health effects in species high up in the food chain, and map how climate change affects pollutants in the European Arctic.

Our focus is also on marine ecology for ice-dependent species of flora and fauna around Svalbard, on the Barents Sea, the North Sea and the Southern Ocean. In particular, research is conducted on how climate change affects ice and the ecosystem in the marginal ice zone and in the fjords.

Monitoring

Environmental pollutants

mosj logo med teksten mosjOur environmental pollutants monitoring is included in the monitoring program MOSJ (Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen).

The Norwegian Polar Institute is responsible for environmental pollutants monitoring in polar bears, Arctic fox, ringed seals, glaucous gulls, Brünnich’s guillemot and Harbour seals. The longest time series begins in the 1970s, while most species have been monitored since the early 1990s. Long-term monitoring of environmental pollutants adds knowledge about how emissions and climate-related changes affect levels of pollutants in arctic top predators.

Monitoring environmental pollutants

Projects

TaxMArc

Diversity, taxonomy and distribution of marine protists in a changing arctic

The main aim of the project is to describe marine protist diversity and their spatial and temporal distribution in the Arctic Ocean. Another aim is to develop tools for future monitoring to be able to detect changes in community structure, dynamics and functioning.

Unicellular protists, including microalgae are main suppliers of the photosynthetic products in the marine food web. Yet the Arctic protist community contains a vast unknown diversity and we lack common references for precise identification of Arctic protists. This impedes our possibility to detect future changes in protist biodiversity and distribution.

TaxMArc will increase the knowledge on protist diversity, their spatial and temporal distribution in the Arctic Ocean, and provide tools for monitoring of Arctic ecosystems. A web-based Pan-Arctic marine protist flora/fauna will be produced and DNA reference sequence databases for metabarcoding. We will combine molecular and microscopy data and relate community composition to environmental factors.

TaxMArc brings together leading experts on Arctic protist diversity and taxonomy from six Norwegian and seven international institutes with extensive research and monitoring activities in the Arctic.

TaxMArc

ID ARCTIC

Interdisciplinary study of Arctic sea ice changes and impacts for the society

The main objective is  to improve the international scientific collaboration between Arctic sea ice scientists in Norway, Canada, and the USA, and facilitate work for the AMAP SWIPA follow-up process.

ID ARCTIC

OASYS

Ocean-Air Synoptic Operations Using Coordinated Autonomous Robotic Systems and Micro Underwater Gliders

OASYS: Ocean-Air Synoptic Operations Using Coordinated Autonomous Robotic Systems and Micro Underwater GlidersThe aim is to develop and demonstrate an innovative type of fully automated ocean-air coordinated robotic operation that has the potential for drastically reducing the cost of ocean observing systems. The partners will develop a swarm of low cost micro underwater gliders (MUGs) that can operate autonomously with the support of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned surface vessels (USVs) for deployment, recovery, battery charging, and communication relay. The system will have the potential to reduce human intervention to the minimum, revolutionizing the affordability of a broad range of surveillance and data collection operations. The proposed observing systems will be demonstrated during sea trials in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard.

OASYS is funded by the MarTERA partners Research Council of Norway (RCN) and German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and co-funded by the European Union.

OASYS

ARKTISMOD

Ecosystem modelling of the Arctic Ocean around Svalbard

The aim is to implement a fully coupled ocean-circulation, sea-ice and biogeochemical model for a large region around Svalbard and with horizontal resolution of 800. The project started in 2014 and continues until present. It has been financed by the Fram Centre Arctic Ocean flagship and involved several Fram Centre partners such: AKV, NIVA and UiT.

Giants of the ocean – affected by anthropogenic pollutants?

Vi studerer nivåer av både gamle og nye miljøgifter i flere hvalarter som blåhval, finhval og hvithval. For å studere potensielle hormoneffekter i blåhval og finnhval på molekylærnivå, har vi kartlagt ulike kjernereseptorer ved hjelp av DNA-teknologi. Basert på kartlegging av reseptorer til blåhval og finnhval studerer vi videre hvordan miljøgifter påvirker funksjon av disse reseptorer. Nye verktøy har blitt etablert for å studere flere typer hormoneffekter i de store hvalene.

Giants of the ocean – affected by anthropogenic pollutants?

Nansen Legacy

logo ice breaking in seaThe Nansen Legacy is a novel and holistic Arctic research project that provides the integrated scien-tific knowledge base required for the sustainable management through the 21st century of the environment and marine resources of the Barents Sea and adjacent Arctic Basin.

An ice-free Arctic is gradually emerging. Wintertime sea ice retreat is to date most pronounced in the Barents Sea, the Atlantic gateway to the Arctic. The knowledge basis for sustainable management of this changing environment and the associated resources is an urgent scientific challenge.

Nansen Legacy

HAVOC

Ridges – Safe HAVens for ice-associated Flora and Fauna in a Seasonally ice-covered Arctic OCean (HAVOC)

HAVOC: Ridges – Safe HAVens for ice-associated Flora and Fauna in a seasonally ice-covered Arctic OCeanHAVOC skal studere haviskantens rolle i den stadig tynnere isen i Polhavet. Samtidig som isen blir tynnere har de tykkeste delene av isdekket større sjanse til å overleve sommersmeltingen og dermed bidra som siste habitat for is-assosiert flora og fauna. Prosjektet  skal delta i den internasjonale MOSAiC? -ekspedisjonen i 2019–2020. Prosjektet er et samarbeid med flere Norske og internasjonale institusjoner.

HAVOC
MOSAiC expedition

TIGRIF

TIdewater Glacier Retreat Impact on Fjord circulation and ecosystems

The main objective is to assess what happens to fjord circulation and ecosystems when tidewater glaciers retreat to the point where they no longer terminate in water but on dry land. This will be done using an ocean circulation model and scenarios of glacier retreat. Modelling will be performed on the Kongsfjord system in north-western Svalbard. This project has been financed by the Research Council of Norway (program HAVKYST).

TIGRIF