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Galway Scientists Understand The Past To Help Predict The Future

Scientists from NUI Galway, the University of Southampton UK, University of Bremen, Germany, and Bergen University, have returned to Galway after 24 days in the Nordic and Greenland Seas to investigate past climate change in the Arctic region

The Irish-led team of scientists was on board the Marine Institute’s RV Celtic Explorer monitoring and capturing a record of temperature, salinity and the carbonate system to improve understanding of essential climate variables and how they are recorded in geologic archives.

Lead scientist, Dr Audrey Morley, School of Geography and Archaeology, NUI Galway said that one of the key challenges in climate change science is “assessing the magnitude of future climate change, due to our short observational records which are limited to the past 150 years.

Dr Audrey Morley on the CIAAN survey. Photo Steve Churchett.

“Our research is unique, as we are not only observing modern essential climate variables, but we will also look into the past to assess how essential climate variables have evolved since before pre-industrial conditions. This long-term perspective is crucial and will help us to better understand our environment and the environmental consequences of human activities.”

Called the ‘CIAAN Survey’ (Constraining the Impact of Arctic Amplification in the Nordic Sea: A biogeochemical approach) it is attempting to define a more comprehensive description of the Nordic Seas ecosystem and provide insight into how essential climate variables are recorded in geologic archives.

The CIAAN survey on the RV Celtic Explorer returned to Galway, after travelling to the Arctic region for the first time.

“Assessing the impact and magnitude of past (pre-industrial) climate changes is critical to understanding how the climate system will respond to a rapidly changing Arctic ecosystem. The Arctic is a sensitive and vulnerable environment with regards to global warming,” said Dr Morley. “The North Atlantic and Nordic Seas are a key region for the formation of North Atlantic Deepwater and the uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Whether or not this region will remain a carbon sink during rapidly warming climates is a question that remains to be answered.”

The RV Celtic Explorer travelled to 79 Degrees North in the Greenland Sea, the highest latitude reached by the marine research vessel. To operate in the Arctic region the RV Celtic Explorer is the first Irish vessel to receive Polar Code Certification. The CIAAN survey received funding from the Marine Institute’s National Research Vessels Ship-Time Programme.

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