An oceanographic snapshot in the CHanging ARctiC passing thrOugh The “North Pole” (CHARCOT)

PI, Lead Institution: Dr Maurizio Azzaro, Institute of Polar Sciences (CNR-ISP), IT


The Arctic region’s rapid warming during the past decades has led to substantial perturbations of atmospheric, ice and ocean physics including a reduction in sea-ice extent and an increase in river discharge. The impact of such changes on physical and mechanical sea-ice properties, ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles remains profoundly understudied especially in the difficult-to-reach central Arctic. Arctic Amplification, Atlantification, Ocean Acidification, deoxygenation and emerging contaminants (e.g. plastics, nanoparticles, PFAS, Rare Earth Elements) are additional stressors altering carbon cycling and ecosystems in the Arctic Ocean today and in the future. Large changes taking place at the central Arctic’s ice/ocean/air interface, where water masses and ocean life interact across a range of temporal and spatial scales, are currently poorly documented.

CHARCOT project will employ a multidisciplinary approach with an international team to document the current state and ongoing changes of the physical, chemical, biological and biogeochemical systems of the Arctic Ocean. Emphasis of the project will be devoted to understanding the major ongoing transformations in water masses, seaice, marine ecosystems (pelagic, sea-ice and bioaerosol), carbon cycling and plastisphere. Furthermore, the ship’s performance and its structural response will be analyzed in the context of environmental conditions. The CHARCOT project aims at a holistic large-scale study of the Arctic by initiating a synergistic approach based on current knowledge and ongoing projects CASSANDRA (Italian PRA within Synoptic Arctic Survey), ELENO (ARICE-PONANT), NANO-ARCTIC (Canadian NSERC), NANO-GATE (French ANR), ArcticAir (ARICEPONANT) and GOOD-IMDOS (EU4OceanObs Action) of the research team.

The overarching goal of the CHARCOT project is to generate a dataset that will lead to a synoptic characterization of the Arctic Ocean including hydrography, sea-ice, carbon cycling and ecosystem functioning, and iconic life. The obtained results will provide a unique baseline that will contribute to track climate change and its impacts as they unfold in the Arctic.

Finally, the social science component includes an ethnographic study of scientific work performed on the Arctic cruise ship. This study will contribute to a greater understanding of how scientific knowledge about the Arctic environment is produced today. Furthermore, this research will demonstrate the contribution of the ARICEPONANT initiative and “Le Commandant Charcot” to polar science, while increasing knowledge dissemination and visibility of the CHARCOT Transarctic expedition to a wider audience.