Arctic sea ice decline is the exponent of the rapidly transforming Arctic climate. If greenhouse gas emissions remain unchecked in the coming decades, summer sea ice loss may pass a critical threshold that could drastically affect the Arctic and global climate. The ensuing regional and global implications of such change can be understood by studying past climate transitions, yet few methods are available to examine past Arctic sea ice cover. This severely restricts our understanding of sea ice in the climate system.
Because satellite and historical observations are limited, it is crucial to have reliable proxies for assessing natural sea ice variability, its stability and sensitivity to climate forcing on different time scales. The main objective of this project is to develop environmental ancient DNA as a novel proxy for sea ice reconstructions. The innovation of this project is to use the genetic signature from surface water and sea ice organisms that are stored in sediments. This wealth of information has not been explored before, and requires calibration to observations and existing proxies for sea ice reconstructions.
The project runs from 2019 to 2023. The research group is based at the Norwegian Research Centre (NORCE) and the Bjerknes Centre of Climate Research in Bergen, Norway. The project is funded by an European Research Council Consolidator Grant. Link here.
Ancient DNA lab
Building the ancient DNA lab at NORCE in Bergen started in summer 2019 and was completed in spring 2020. The lab is now fully operational and we have sampled long piston cores, gravity cores and shorter multicores from the Arctic Ocean and Nordic Seas for AGENSI. Here you get an impression of how we sample for ancient DNA in a clean lab.
Movie courtesy of Danielle M. Grant.
Impressions of our cruise with RV Kronprins Haakon to the East Greenland Sea (ca. 80˚N) in Arctic winter darkness (November 2020). We retrieved and sampled sediment cores from the sea floor using a multicorer and sampled the sea ice, when the polar bears were not around.
(Movies courtesy of Danielle M. Grant)
Katrine Sandnes Skaar, currently Senior Department Engineer at Ocean TuniCell AS