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DAMOCLES - Developing Arctic Modelling and Observing Capabilities for Long-term environmental studies

Summary information

Funding:FP6 - Integrated Project
Total cost:24670000
Ec contribution:16100000
Start date:2005-12-01
End date:2010-05-31
Duration:48 months
Coordinator:Jean-Claude Gascard (
Organisation:Université Pierre et Marie Curie – France
Themes:Ice melting
Project name:DAMOCLES - Developing Arctic Modelling and Observing Capabilities for Long-term environmental studies
Project summary:Abstract
All state-of-the-art climate models predict that the perennial sea-ice of the Arctic Ocean will disappear within a few decades or less. Important questions remain as to whether this expectation is justified, and if so when this change will take place and what effect it will have on climate at a regional-to-global scale. Such a dramatic physical affront to the ocean-atmosphere-cryosphere system in northern latitudes which corresponds to a change in surface albedo from more than 0.8 to less than 0.3 over a surface larger than Europe, is bound to have radical effects on human activities with immediate impacts on the indigenous inhabitants of the circum-Arctic region and the ecosystem on which they depend, and widespread effects on socio-economic activity on hemispheric scale. We propose an Integrated Project for Developing Arctic Modelling and Observing Capabilities for Long-term Environmental Studies (DAMOCLES) with the following objectives: (1) identify and understand the changes occurring in the Sea-Ice, Atmosphere and Ocean of the Arctic and Sub arctic domain, (2) improve the realism by which these changes are simulated in models, thus extending the lead-time prior to the onset of extreme climate events, (3) determine appropriate adaptation strategies for a range of anticipated socio-economic impacts following the disappearance of the perennial sea-ice. At a time when the International Polar Year (IPY) will focus on the science of the polar regions and on the human dimension of polar change, DAMOCLES will provide a contribution to reflect both the skills of European Sciences and the importance to European interests. DAMOCLES represents the integrated efforts of 45 (Original) + 4 (TTC extension) European research institutions including 10 SMEs distributed among 12 European countries, and coordinated with the USA, Russian Federation, Canada and Japan.

The main objective of DAMOCLES is to reduce the uncertainties in our understanding of climate change in the Arctic and in the impacts thereof. To meet this objective DAMOCLES will, following the approach of Numerical Weather Prediction Centers, develop an integrated system for obtaining relevant geophysical observations, transferring them to a central databank, distributing them to the modelling centers, and producing nowcasts and forecasts of the Arctic climate. But since there exists no such thing as an Arctic Ocean Observing System, nor fully validated models for Arctic climate, nor accepted methods for forecasting of climate, a number of specific objectives need to be met in DAMOCLES:
- Synoptic observational coverage of the Arctic Ocean sea-ice cover:
- The variability of sea-ice thickness, extent, concentration, ice-type and drift will be monitored by remote and in-situ systems in near real-time. Sea-ice dynamics and thermodynamics will be scrutinized to better understand their role for the large-scale ice-atmosphere-ocean system
- Synoptic observation and investigation of atmospheric key processes

Aimed at a better predictability of the Arctic weather and climate, key processes are investigated in a combined observational/process-modelling effort:
- the effects of Arctic cyclone on sea-ice in terms of heat and moisture transport, an improvement of boundary-layer physics over ice and ocean, an improvement of the radiative transfers and its interaction with snow and sea-ice
- Synoptic observation of the Arctic Ocean circulation and key processes
- An observational system will be set up with the aim to improve the understanding of the large-scale circulation of the Arctic Ocean and its vertical and lateral exchanges as well as the communication between central basins and the shelves. New techniques will be used to assess synoptically the state of the ocean under the ice and the fluxes of heat, salt and volume across the boundaries
- Integration and assimilation of observations with large-scale models

Model sensitivities will be investigated and performance be improved by model-model and model-data comparison, aiming at an improved predictability. Observations will be enhanced by a set of assimilation activities to deliver reanalysed Arctic variables in time and space. To address the question of potential impacts of climate change in the Arctic the following specific objective of DAMOCLES can be formulated:
- Assessment of impact on environment and humans

The observationally supported model improvements, the model sensitivities and past ranges of variability will be combined with new field data. The aim is to evaluate improved predictability and its consequences, as well as the impact of projected changes on adaptation capabilities and vulnerability of the environment and human activities. DAMOCLES will not work in isolation – it serves the European community. Exploitation and dissemination of the results are key elements of the project. Thus, a 6th specific objective is:
- User-friendly return of information to the community

A website will be available; giving the community updated information about the state of the Arctic (e.g. real-time information of key atmospheric, ice and ocean variables) as well as information about the progress of the science of DAMOCLES. Education will be provided, through workshops and student scholarships.
The main technological objective of DAMOCLES is to develop a prototype for an Arctic Ocean Observing System (AOOS) including major innovations and breakthrough in High Technology instrumentation adapted to a remote and harsh environment such as the Arctic Ocean. The DAMOCLES AOOS prototype system will be composed of very modern and sophisticated instruments for in situ measurements involving near real time transmission and remote sensing such as:
- Satellite radar altimetry, Scatterometers (QuickSCAT), passive microwave radiometers (SSM/IS, AMSRE), SAR imagery (ENVISAT, RADARSAT);
- Ice Tethered Platforms equipped with vertical CTD profilers for taking daily profiles of temperature and salinity versus depth;
- Sea-Gliders like autonomous underwater vehicles measuring 1.000s of slanted profiles of temperature and salinity along transects between ITPs and Moorings equipped with acoustic transponders;
- Neutrally buoyant floats drifting at constant depth and equipped with Upward Looking Sonars to measure Sea-Ice draft from underneath;
- Tiltmeters for detecting flexural-gravity waves propagating through the ice and deducing sea-ice thickness over an averaged area.

One of the most important challenges of DAMOCLES is related to multi-faceted applications of underwater
acoustic technology such as:
- Upward Looking Sonar (ULS) mounted on neutrally buoyant isobaric drifting floats and/or on moorings for measuring sea-ice draft;
- Long range navigation using Sound Fixing and Ranging (SOFAR/RAFOS) techniques for navigating underwater Floats and Sea-Gliders under sea-ice;
- Short range navigation and data transfer using acoustic modems on all the instruments fixed on moorings (eulerian) or freely drifting (lagrangian) for near real time data transmission;
- Acoustic Doppler profilers measuring vertical profiles of horizontal currents;
- Tomography for measuring temperature along vertical sections after inversion;
- Acoustic based technology will also be used in the atmosphere for measuring winds with sonic anemometers.

DAMOCLES will for the first time achieve a systematic approach to observing, understanding and quantifying climate change in the Arctic through:
- Developing and deploying an advanced observing system that provides for the synoptic, continuous and long-term monitoring of the lower atmosphere, sea-ice and the upper ocean;
- Evaluating and improving global and regional climate forecasting models based on validation by, and assimilation and integration of observed data;
- Designing and testing an integrated ice-atmosphere-ocean monitoring and forecasting system. The ultimate deliverable will be to lengthen the lead-time of extreme climate changes predicted to occur in the Arctic within this century and thus to improve the ability of society to mitigate for their impacts.

DAMOCLES research will provide a substantial step forward from the present state-of the art by:
- improving monitoring capabilities of the Arctic Ocean, ice and atmosphere through innovative technological advances;
- improving the data transfer from instruments to users, through innovative technological advances, the use of an operational databank, and unprecedented data delivery and format agreements between all partners;
- increasing the knowledge concerning dynamics and thermodynamics of the Arctic Ocean Sea-ice cover and the understanding of its interaction with the Ocean and the Atmosphere in the northern hemisphere climate system;
- improving significantly the ability to predict extreme climate events in the Arctic, such as the disappearance of the perennial ice-cover;
- contributing to the development and implementation of observing and forecasting systems to make longterm systematic observations of marine and atmospheric parameters of the Arctic Environment necessary for global change research and management strategies;
- improving the knowledge on the adaptive capacity and vulnerability of human activities and the environment with respect to such an event, and thus enhance the European Union’s preparedness in terms of environmental and societal terms.
Project outputs:During the project large amounts of various types of data describing the sea ice, atmosphere and ocean have been collected. Proper management of the data flow and access is an essential part of a successful project and for this reason a website has been set up for the optimalisation of data management and distribution. The special website can be accessed via the project website. The project website also contains a list of peer-reviewed publications from DAMOCLES.

During the final symposium, DAMOCLES scientists developed a declaration summarizing the key findings from the project, as well as future projections and scenarios. This declaration can be found on the project website.