Arctic Change

Monitoring greenhouse gases

Program objectives

In partnership with the University of Geneva, Arctic Change aims to contribute to a better understanding of the role of  polar oceans in the complex context of global warming.

It will continuously monitor greenhouse gas (methane and carbon dioxide) concentrations, temperatures and other important data in both the polar atmosphere and surface ocean waters.

GazMap2

Click on the button to view carbon dioxide and methane concentrations measured during the expedition.

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Program news

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What are the main greenhouse gases?

CO2

Carbon dioxide is the second most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere after water vapor. They respectively contribute about 26% and 60% to global warming.

CH4

Methane is responsible for 17% of global warming. Its high global warming potential is equivalent to 34 times that of carbon dioxide over a hundred years. But it persists in the atmosphere for less than ten years. Humans are responsible for 75% of its production.

The problem

The Arctic region is the most sensitive region to climate change on Earth. It is a key stabilizer of weather in the northern hemisphere and the world.

Warming of Arctic waters is changing the water column structure, driving dramatic changes in major ocean currents and the absorption of carbon dioxide.

To compound the problem, as water and land warms in this sensitive region, large amounts of stored methane gas worsening climate warming and leading to critical feedback mechanisms.

Rationale

Despite the crucial importance of this phenomenon, precise data from polar regions, allowing for regional variability, are still lacking. New measurements are essential to complement those provided by satellites.

In response the University of Geneva in collaboration with the Fondation Pacifique has equipped the Mauritius with sensors capable of measuring ocean-atmosphere gases exchanges.

These data will allow the scientific community to better understand the extent and rate of global warming and to accurately assess how much time is left to solve or mitigate this problem.

Scientific goals and objectives

The objective of the expedition is to collect scientific data in the Arctic region to contribute to human knowledge.

Methane and carbon dioxide measurements will be taken continuously in air and water. In addition, other metrological and oceanographic measurements will be carried out.

What is global warming?

Global warming is a climatic anomaly consisting of an accelerated increase in temperatures around the world due to human activity.

The extent of global warming is still poorly understood, but climate experts agree the consequences will be environmental, economic, social and on human health.

Results and impact

Data collected on methane and carbon dioxide will help to establish current atmospheric budgets and to calibrate atmospheric models and satellite measurements.

Combined with measured surface water concentrations and wind speed measurements, methane and carbon dioxide sources and sinks will be determined in these regions. These measurements will provide an important picture of conditions over this period and will be used to update atmospheric models and budgets.

Continuous monitoring of seawater temperature, salinity and oxygen will provide an update on the current state of the region and provide baseline data to assess future changes.

What is the role of CO2?

Carbon dioxide is a harmless gas. Plants absorb and transform it into biomass. Human and animal respiration and combustion processes release it into the atmosphere. As a greenhouse gas, it ensures that pleasant temperatures are maintained on earth. Today, however, the production of anthropogenic carbon dioxide is far too high.

Beneficiaries

Data produced by the Arctic Expedition will be available in near real time on this site and will benefit the scientific community, policy makers and the general public.

The institutional beneficiaries of the data collected are, among others: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.S. National Space Agency (NASA), the European Space Agency (ESA) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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Project leaders

Daniel-mcGinnis

Prof. Daniel F. McGinnis

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Dr. Daphne Donis

Arctic Change is the result of a partnership between the Fondation Pacifique and the University of Geneva. The Fondation Pacifique has 10 years of experience in conducting oceanographic expeditions around the world.

The foundation’s sailboats are regularly chartered by researchers and scientific organizations to better understand man’s impact on the oceans and to raise public awareness of sustainable development issues.

The greenhouse gases monitoring program is led by Dr. Daphne Donis and Prof. Daniel F. McGinnis of the F.-A. Forel Department of Environmental and Water Sciences (DEFSE) of the Faculty of Sciences, University of Geneva. They have been partners of the Fondation Pacifique since 2015.

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