AOEM - Arctic Ocean ESONET Mission

The Arctic Ocean will be the site of the most significant and probably irreversible environmental change as climate warming proceeds through the 21st century. Sustained ocean observing of key sites and / or processes will be crucial to understand the “trajectory” of climate change including whether it will be progressive or a series of tipping points, and what are the consequential feedbacks to earth system processes and ecosystems. Fram Strait and western Svalbard shelf are key sites to undertake sustained seafloor / ocean observing to understand this Arctic climate change and are already the sites of long-term observing with the HAUSGARTEN, Kongsfjord, and KONGHAU projects.

The MASOX (Monitoring Arctic Seafloor – Ocean Exchange) and ARCOONE (Arctic Operational Oceanography Network in ESONET), sub-projects of the Arctic Ocean ESONET Mission (AOEM), address important facets of developing science understanding, technology, and real-time environmental data streams to enhance monitoring of Arctic Ocean climate change.

It'is of the most importance to coordinate various initiatives in this area to optimize funding issues and to develop a long term monitoring infrastructure in the Arctic Ocean.

Both MASOX and ARCOONE sub-projects will be deployed at the designated Arctic ESONET / EMSO site, which currently comprises the HAUSGARTEN, Kongsfjord, and KONGHAU projects presently monitor biological oceanography across the western Svalbard continental slope and shelf. The addition of the ARCOONE project across Fram Strait linking with the HAUSGARTEN project and MASOX on the upper western Svalbard shelf now provides “critical scientific mass” for a cabled observatory at the Arctic ESONET / EMSO site. Indeed the new Norwegian SIOS (Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System) provides a crucial impetus to developing the Arctic ESONET / EMSO site.

Understanding the effects of climate change on the Arctic region in general is both an urgent scientific challenge and of high societal relevance. The ESONET Arctic node was originally defined by HAUSGARTEN that AWI started to implement in 1999. HAUSGARTEN is an observation field focusing on ecosystem properties and benthic biology. The Kongsfjord and KONGHAU projects have been added in recent years to monitor biological oceanography across the western Svalbard shelf. Both MASOX and ARCOONE sub-projects will be deployed at the designated Arctic ESONET / EMSO site. Phase 3 (from 2010) of the ESONET Arctic node implementation plan includes the cable connection of HAUSGARTEN observatory to shore. The proposed Norwegian SIOS (Svalbard Integrated Arctic Earth Observing System) provides a crucial impetus to developing the Arctic ESONET / EMSO site including the deployment of seafloor cable and nodes that could integrate the HAUSGARTEN, Kongsfjord, KONGHAU, MASOX and ARCOONE projects. Another long term system for observations in Fram Strait, is the extensive mooring array at 79°N. It is planned to connect the oceanographic moorings in Fram Strait and HAUSGARTEN as soon as the underwater data transmission technology will be available and a cable to HAUSGARTEN will be deployed. To maintain such a large mooring array is costly and the mooring array also suffers from
limitations in resolution and real time capability. In DAMOCLES IP a partial solution was proposed by implementation of a cost effective and integrated system incorporating acoustic thermometry data into state of the art high-resolution ice-ocean models through data assimilation (Johannessen et al, 2002). Accordingly, ESONET and DAMOCLES IP develop complementary observatories in the Fram Strait and the technology to merge the two systems has to be provided.

For these reasons, the AOEM project will have high-impact and lead to a higher profile for ESONET and EMSO, an increased understanding by funding agencies of the need for seabed observatories and an increased potential for governmental support for cabled observatories.
AOEM (Arctic Ocean ESONET Mission) will provide the following results and developments:

  • Provide web-based real-time monitoring data of complex earth system processes from a remote location in the Arctic Ocean that brings “reality” to the wider public and governmental community of climate change.
  • Develop new observatory technology and lander infrastructure, that can be used at other seafloor observatories characterised by either “cold seep” fluid expulsion and free-gas release, or remote, high-latitude, high energy marine environments.
  • Integration of data transfer from several complex and technologically advanced observational platforms is not trivial and demands significant effort and time devoted to design, evaluation and testing potential solutions for interfacing both hardware components and information streams with the cabled node. AOEM will serve as an indispensable preparatory phase for establishing the permanent connection and operational data transfer for different components of the Fram Strait observing system. The most important application of expected AOEM results will be the ability of a prompt implementation of selected technical solutions whenever a cable to the land base is deployed.
  • Design and evaluation of different scenarios and techniques for collecting data from diverse instrumented modules and integration of available data streams in Fram Strait provided by AOEM will serve as a guide for optimizing and further improvements of the integrated observing system in terms of instrumentation, values added by complementary measurements, data storage and transfer.
  • In future perspective, the acoustic network for tomography and underwater navigation, designed under AOEM will be used for operating of gliders and floats under the ice and potential data transfer from gliders to the cabled node when ice conditions inhibit surfacing of the autonomous vehicle and satellite data transmission.
  • AOEM will identify ocean water column deliverables that will be achievable from the cabled network with a strong focus on needs of potential users. When the cable is provided to HAUSGARTEN, additional quantities could be collected like bottom boundary turbulence or current profiles above the bottom for monitoring of benthic storms, turbulent activity and a link to ecosystem.
  • Using the AOEM results, the stringent constraints of power and data transmission limitation of autonomous moorings will be relaxed by the advantage of the cabled system, this will also improve cost efficiency of moored observatories (increased deployment periods) and securing the data recovery (by minimizing the risk of loosing collected data when a mooring is lost due to unexpected factors).
  • Press the case in scientific, and national and international policy fora that the existing Arctic ESONET site develop into a series of observational experiments that aggregate into a “scientific critical mass” worthy of sustained annual ship-servicing funded by respective national funding agencies in the medium-term, and a multi-node, cabled observatory infrastructure in the longer-term.

AWI and NOC will take responsibility for data archival with submission to both the BODC and PANGEA data centres. Likewise, technology development and sensor integration from both MASOX and ARCOONE will have considerable impact within the wider ESONET NoE. Harmonization of international and interdisciplinary cooperation with all partners involved in ocean water column monitoring in the Fram Strait area will result in better planning and coordination of field experiments, adaptation of common standards for data transfer, more efficient use of the existing infrastructure and widely optimized development and implementation of future capabilities.

The AOEM will capitalize on the experience, knowledge and monitoring technologies in previous and ongoing marine EU projects, in particular DAMOCLES IP and HERMES. AOEM will develop these technologies and methods further by implementation of pilot solutions and providing a long-term strategy for operational availability of ocean data sets from the Fram Strait and western Svalbard shelf observatories. AOEM will become an element of the Arctic Regional Ocean Observing System (Arctic ROOS) and thereby contribute to GEO Task CL-06-06 Global Ocean Observation System (GOOS, AOEM will tie the links to the iAOOS supported by AOSB that assures the multidisciplinary and trans-Atlantic view by the presence of the AOSB member as a project participant. As the Arctic HAUSGARTEN deep sea observatory constitutes also one of main study sites in the HERMIONE project (Hotspot Ecosystem Research and Man's Impact on European seas,, this project will also profit from synergic development and integration of measurements in Fram Strait. Enhancing the scope of observations at the ESONET Arctic node will allow keeping up with advancements in deep sea observatories of the associated EuroSITES project ( EuroSITES includes monitoring at Station Mike in the Norwegian Sea where UiB is responsible partner. The experience developed from integration of physical oceanographic data and their operational transmission in EuroSITES will be then available, ensuring synergy and cost effectiveness.

In designing future actions and long-term management of the infrastructure, the AOEM will take an advantage of ongoing achievements of the EMSO project (European Multidisciplinary Seafloor Observatories Research Infrastructure, /). In the MyOcean project (the FP7 and GMES/Kopernikus project starting in early 2009) the Arctic portal will be maintained by NERSC and used to disseminate results from AOEM. Activities planned in ARCOONE will be closely coordinated and integrated with the ongoing development and implementation of new technologies (tomography, acoustic communication and navigation, gliders) in the EU project ACOBAR that started in late 2008. Finally, the expected results of AOEM will provide a feedback for evaluation and improvement of ACOBAR and ESONET technological components. 

The location at Svalbard invites collaboration and linkages with relevant European and national research infrastructure planning. Within ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures), the new SIAOS (Svalbard Integrated Arctic Observing System) initiative, designed to be a major building block of a Sustained Arctic Observing Network ( will be relevant in addition to EMSO. Both AWI and NERC / NOC are project partners in SIAOS. It is clear that the operational delivery of data from a future cabled observatory in the Arctic after the AOEM project period should be embedded in wider data integration efforts.