Understanding climate
for the benefit of society

Photo: Creative Commons / Anders Jildén

Eight new projects receives funding

Cyclones, stalagmites, snow sources, sea ice leads, and the southern oceans behaviour in the past, are among the topics in the new projects funded by the Norwegian Research Counsil. 


In the programme FRINATEK, the research counsil distributed 251 mill. NOK on 32 new research projects. Six of these are for Bjerknes researchers. We also got two of five projects in the programme Polarprog.


T-TRAC “Tropical Temperature Reconstruction Across 0.5 million years from Cave formations”,  Nele Meckler, Department of Earth Sciences

With T-TRAC, we will use innovative new methods to extract past temperatures from stalagmites (cave dripstones). We will work on samples that cover the last half million years and come from the island of Borneo in the tropical West Pacific. This region hosts the warmest part of the surface ocean and is therefore an important part of the global climate system. By looking back in time, we can for example assess how different levels of atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the past affected climate in this region.

SNOWPACE “Sources of the Norwegian winter season snow pack constrained by stable water isotopes”, Harald Sodemann, Geophysical Institute

The primary objective of the SNOWPACE project is to identify where the moisture sources for the Norwegian winter snow pack are located, and how variable they are. We will employ stable water isotope measurements to constrain atmospheric moisture transport from source to sink. This will be achieved from dedicated field sampling of evaporating sea water, water vapor from a network of stations in the North Atlantic region, and of snowfall and snow cores of the Norwegian winter snow pack, in collaboration with our partner at UiO. The new knowledge gained from SNOWPACE, distributed as an open-access data set of all measurements collected during the project, will pave the way to constrain processes and improve parameterizations in weather and climate models, and for the management of natural resources in a changing climate.

PATHWAY - Pathways, processes, and impacts of poleward ocean heat transport.

Marius Årthun at the Geophysical Institute receives “Young research talent”-funding for the Pathway-project. The purpose of PATHWAY is to understand the formation and propagation of warm and cold states with the Gulf Stream’s extension toward the Arctic, their interaction with the atmosphere above, and consequent influence on and predictability of continental climate downwind.

FRASIL - FRActal properties of Sea Ice Leads and their impact on the Arctic physical and biological environments.

Pierre Rampal at the NERSC receives funding as "young research talent" with his project FRASIL. The Arctic has proven very sensitive to increased global temperatures, warming substantially faster than the rest of the globe. This has resulted in thinning and reduction in sea ice cover leading to a new dynamical regime in which sea ice fracturing and ridging are more frequent. The fractal properties of the ice cover and its extreme variability strongly influence the atmosphere-ocean interactions and the dynamics of the Arctic marine ecosystems. These interactions and their influence on climate are actively debated, although the supporting model premises are presently weak. FRASIL will enable a new perspective on the changes endured by the Arctic and their consequences for marine life. 

ULTRAMAR - "Ultra-High-Resolution Marine Records from the Subarctic Atlantic", Martin Miles, Geophysical Institute

The ULTRAMAR research project is focused on reconstructing and understanding the long-term development of key aspects of ocean-ice atmosphere dynamics at annual to sub-annual resolution. The project aims to quantitatively constrain and explain interannual to multidecadal marine climate variability in the North Atlantic / Nordic Seas gateways and the broader subarctic-arctic Atlantic. In ULTRAMAR we will develop new baseline sclerochronology data records from SW Iceland, and quantitatively analyse this material and more than 25 other ultra-high-resolution records using advanced statistical techniques.

Figur til UNPCC-prosjektet til Thomas Spengler. Skyer og piler
Sloping isentropic surfaces are a prerequisite for baroclinic instability. In general, baroclinic instability tends to flatten isentropic surfaces, but upward sensible heat fluxes, as well as latent heat release act to deform isentropic surfaces. One of the goals of the UNPACC project is to shed light on these processes. Figure: Lukas Papritz and Thomas Spengler.

UNPACC - Unifying Perspectives on Atmosphere-Ocean Interactions during Cyclone Development

UNPACC will pinpoint the influence of mesoscale air-sea interactions and diabatic effects on the genesis and intensification of extratropical cyclones with the goal of advancing our understanding of the mechanisms leading to the development of intense extratropical cyclones along strong sea surface temperature gradients and their interplay with ocean eddies.

MCAO - Marine cold air outbreaks at high-latitudes: Dynamics and imprints of mesoscale features

We hypothesise that Marine Cold Air Outbreaks (MCAOs), in conjunction with local features, such as orography, ice configuration and sea-surface temperature gradients, result in low-level convergence zones, and that severe weather originates from these low-level convergence zones. Our limited knowledge of these intense mesoscale phenomena hampers our ability to forecast severe weather events, and impedes our understanding of energy exchange between the cryosphere, atmosphere and ocean during MCAOs. To address this knowledge gap we perform a detailed investigation and characterisation of mesoscale features associated with MCAOs.


Two new projects also in the Polarprog-programme:

Tabaco “Topographic barriers controlling warm water inflow and Antarctic ice shelf melting”  Elin Darelius, Geophysical Institute

Many Antarctic ice shelves are thinning rapidly as warm water enter the cavity beneath them and melt them from below. We will combine field observations with numerical modelling and laboratory experiments to study the dynamics controlling the access of warm water to the ice shelf cavities. The project is a collaboration between researchers from Norway (UiB, NERSC, Aquaplan-NIVA), UK (British Antarctic Survey), Germany (AWI and University of Hamburg), France (LOCEAN) and Korea (KOPRI).

Past behavior of the Southern Ocean`s atmosphere and cryosphere (SOUTHSPHERE)

Bjerknes-led POLARPORG project will investigate the global impacts of atmospheric climate change in one of the least-explored regions of our planet – the Southern Ocean

Raging around the Antarctic continent between the roaring forties and screaming sixties (45-60°S), the Southern Ocean`s westerly winds play a critical role in regulating Earth`s climate system. This powerful circulation pattern drives global ocean circulation, stores vast amounts of CO2 and shields Antarctic ice from low-latitude heat. Both strength and position of key climate regulator shift rapidly in the face of global warming – driving dramatic changes in temperature, precipitation and cryosphere stability across the region. Yet the causes and potential effects of these shifts remain poorly understood owing to a lack of data, hampering adequate representation of the region in the models used to predict future climate. More information is urgently needed.

The 9 million NOK SOUTHSPHERE project, submitted by Bjerknes researchers Jostein Bakke and Willem van der Bilt and funded under the POLARPROG program aims to address this critical knowledge gap. Together with international collaborators from the UK, US, France and Switzerland, Bakke and van der Bilt set course to the Kerguelen archipelago, one of the world`s least explored and most remote regions. Here, they will use the traces left behind by glaciers and algae to unravel the signature of past atmospheric climate change in the Southern Ocean. “We will apply a fundamentally new approach that exploits the potential of a new generation of paleoclimate tools to deepen our understanding of change in this global climate hotspot”, van der Bilt explains. “At its core, this project exploits the climate sensitivity of glaciers – disentangling the information they hold on hydrological and temperature shifts”, Bakke adds. “Bjerknes has been at the forefront of this line of paleoclimate research for decades and with SOUTHPHERE we will be able to advance the field again and consolidate our position as global leaders”.