Belgium participates in one of the largest expeditions in the Arctic

MOSAICFigure1by Marianna Pinzone

The Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC), will be the first year-around expedition exploring the coupled Arctic climate system (Figure 1). It has been designed by an international consortium of leading polar research institutions under the umbrella of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), led by the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute (AARI) and the University of Colorado, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES).

The expedition started this September and will last an entire year (until September 2020). The German Research Vessel (RV) Polarstern left from Tromsø (Norway) and it is now drifting along the Siberian ice. This is the first time that such large and innovative effort is conducted to study the effects of climate change in Central Arctic. 300 scientists (from more than 15 countries) will investigate the Arctic climate processes that couple the atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, bio-geochemistry and ecosystem. The results of MOSAiC will enhance the understanding of the regional and global consequences of Arctic climate change and sea-ice loss, and improve weather and climate predictions. Belgium will also contribute to this expedition with several scientists, mostly from the University of Liège (ULiège) and the University of Leuven (KULeuven), collaborating from land or participating to the campaign at sea.

At KULeuven, Prof. Filip Volckaert from the Department of Biology and the PhD student Sarah Maes from the Department of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Genomics are collaborating with the MOSAiC expedition in the framework of a Population Genetic study. They are interested in the collection of Polar Cod Boreogadus saida, the most abundant circumpolar marine fish. The main goal is to understand the distribution shifts of polar cod and boreal species under climate change.

At ULiège, it is the FRS-FNRS Research Associate Bruno Delille from the Chemical Oceanography laboratory at the FOCUS Research Unit, who will join the expedition. One of the focuses of his research is to understand the role of the Arctic pack ice into the regulation of greenhouse gas circulation. Unfortunately, due to the difficulty of sampling in this remote area, the knowledge acquired until now is limited and very patchy. The MOSAIC expedition will be the perfect occasion to prolong his studies over a one-year long period, and correlate them with many other datasets from other scientific domains (See figure 2 below – MOSAIC Science).

MOSAICFigure2

Figures credits

Figure 1: German Research Vessel Polastern from the website https://www.mosaic-expedition.org/

Figure 2: The ensemble of scientific domains covered by the MOSAiC expedition. Found on page: https://www.mosaic-expedition.org/science/scientific-focus-areas/