Swiss Polar Institute Website Expedition GLACE
Photo by Konrad Steffen @ WSL
Photo by Konrad Steffen @ WSL

GLACE – A unique chance to gain a deeper understanding of the complex processes in the Arctic

GLACE will take scientific teams from all over the world on a complete circumnavigation of Greenland over a two-month period in August and September 2019 on board the research vessel Akademik Tryoshnikov. Along the North of Greenland, the ship will be working in convoy with an atomic icebreaker to break the multi-annual ice and provide access to the largely unchartered Northern Greenland.

Due to GLACE having been postponed, the timeline of the detailed description below does not apply anymore; it is still helpful to understand the scope and duration of the expedition. As soon as updated information becomes available, the times and dates will be adapted.

The cruise

On 25 July 2019, the loading of the ship will start in the port of Kiel, Germany. On 30 July, the transit to Reykjavik starts, with an expected travel time of about three days. The start of the first stage, or leg, of the circumnavigation is on 4 August from Reykjavik, in Iceland, proceeding clockwise around Greenland with a stopover in Ilulissat on Greenland’s West coast around the middle of August. In Ilulissat, scientists who only take part in one of the two legs of the expedition around Greenland can disembark or come on board for the second leg. Three super sites in Southern Greenland and four in Northern Greenland have been identified for prolonged stops to allow for multi-disciplinary and land-based investigations. The fourth super site in North-Eastern Greenland, NG4, will be accessed depending on the progress of the expedition and weather experienced.

By 23 September, the research vessel will reach Reykjavik again and transit back to Kiel. Unloading in Kiel is expected to begin on 29 September, with the cruise ending there.

Photo by Konrad Steffen @ WSL

Why it is so important to better understand the changes in the Arctic regions

The Arctic region and Greenland in particular have both been considerably affected by global warming. Because of polar amplification, temperatures have increased by 2-3 °C within the last decades – well above the globally averaged temperature increase of 1 °C.

One of the most dramatic manifestations of warming in the Arctic relates to the substantial decrease in sea-ice cover affecting oceanic heat uptake and marine biological production.

Furthermore, increasing temperatures contribute to accelerate glacier melt both in the Arctic realm and in Greenland with meltwater contributing to sea-level rise and measurable large-scale ocean circulation changes. Increased nutrient and sediment supply associated with glacial runoff modify coastal and open ocean ecosystems, with shifting phytoplankton communities affecting the entire food chain, including birds and mammals.

The warming environment also presents major challenges to local communities, notably affecting natural resources and infrastructures.

From this perspective, furthering our understanding underlying the complex interactions between the terrestrial biosphere, the cryosphere, the ocean and atmosphere will offer opportunities to better preserve these unique ecosystems in the future.

Photo by Konrad Steffen @ WSL

The Swiss Polar Institute SPI

The Swiss Polar Institute SPI was created to provide dedicated support to, offer new opportunities and promote synergies within the polar community in Switzerland. GLACE is the second large expedition of the SPI, emphasising the importance of Swiss polar research on a global level, as well as highlighting the Swiss Polar Institute as a facilitator of major international research activities in polar regions. GLACE is a scientific expedition, organised by the Swiss Polar Institute SPI and supported by the Swiss Polar Foundation.

Photo by Konrad Steffen @ WSL

Questions and answers