One of the larger events this year, at least for our Department, will be the SWERUS-C3 expedition to the Arctic. More than half of the researchers at IGV (Dept of Geological Sciences) will join the expedition, which is led by Martin Jakobsson (IGV) and Örjan Gustafsson (ITM). Our corridors and our department will feel empty with so many people gone! But then – who would not want to join this exciting Swedish – Russian – USA expedition with the Swedish icebreaker Oden from Norway through the Arctic Ocean to Barrow in Alaska and back again? For sure, the researchers will see icebergs and polar bears, but also a seemingly never ending ocean. It is however not the icebergs and the polar bears that are the focus of this expedition!
The expedition, which has been carefully planned for many years, aims at a better understanding of how global climate change will affect the East Siberian Arctic Ocean, a part of the world that is experiencing very fast rates of climate warming. The East Siberian Arctic Ocean is very special since it holds vast quantities of submarine (shelf, slope) and coastal permafrost and this permafrost in turn stores huge amounts of carbon and methane. What will happen to these greenhouse gases if (or when) the permafrost starts to melt? They will be released and will add considerable amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere! But how much and how fast? And how stable are these deposits, some of which are concentrated to the slope, i.e. the part between the shelf and the deep ocean? Up to now little is known about the stability of these methane bearing frozen layers.
The researchers joining the SWERUS expedition will certainly be able to watch polar bears, but they will probably be very busy most of the time during this three month long journey. They will continuously measure emissions of carbon and methane, will take sediment samples to investigate if some of the carbon may be buried, and they will take long sediment sequences to place the current warming in a longer time perspective. Maybe there has been a time interval in the past, when permafrost has melted and carbon was released into the atmosphere? Probably one will have to travel far back in time to find a situation similar to today’s rapid warming? The sediment cores will definitely tell us!
SWERUS will for sure provide updates on the expedition. Until now one can join them on Facebook and get first hand information on who, when, where and what.