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Arctic is warming faster than thought

Brussels, 12 November 2009

Climate change affects the sensitive system of the Arctic much more severely than first thought. During the last 100 years, the Arctic atmosphere has warmed almost twice as fast as the global average. Scientist of the European Union funded research project Damocles concluded in a declaration published in Brussels today that "unless emissions are curbed significantly, we are not expecting a stabilisation of the Arctic's climate system".

The sea-ice cover has rapidly thinned and decreased during at least three decades. The process is accelerating because the amount of heat required to melt the remaining ice is reduced and moderate changes in heat flux from the ocean and the atmosphere can have large impacts on the Arctic ice cover.

The September 2007 sea-ice extent was an all-time record minimum, and September 2008 and 2009 had the second and third lowest summer ice extents ever observed. Projection show that it might completely disappear in summer by the end of this century with large consequences for ecology.

The scientists of Damocles achieved for the first time a systematic approach to integrate, atmosphere physics, sea ice glaciology and oceanography in order to observe, understand and quantify climate change in the Arctic. The project lasts from 2005 – 2010 and is one of Europe's flagship projects in the area of Arctic and Climate research. The total cost is about €25 million of which the European Commission is contributing €16.5 million. Damocles represents the integrated efforts of 46 European research institutions including 10 SMEs distributed among 12 European countries, and coordinated with the USA, Russia, China, Canada and Japan.

The research efforts of Damocles will be followed up. Three major projects supported by the 7th Framework Programme (FP7) have already started as there is THOR (Is the Thermo-Haline Overturning at Risk?), ATP (Arctic Tipping points) and ICE2SEA, the last addressing sea-level rise while reaching beyond to the ant-arctic climate change impacts. But there is more to come: A coordinated call across a number of FP7 themes has been launched focusing on the "The Ocean of tomorrow". The call is still open, deadline 14 January 2010. Over €11 million have been reserved for the support of a major multi-disciplinary research project on "Quantification of climate change impacts on economic sectors in the Arctic", addressing the socio-economic dimension of the problem.

More information:

- About Damocles and the full declaration of the scientists on http://www.damocles-eu.org/

- The call "The Ocean of tomorrow": http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/dc/index.cfm?fuseaction=UserSite.CooperationDetailsCallPage&call_id=274

- The European Research Framework Programme: Research on Climate Change
+ http://ec.europa.eu/research/environment/index_en.cfm?pg=climate
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- Damocles contact
Laetitia Nitkiewicz, laetitia.nitkiewicz@locean-ipsl.upmc.fr, Tel: +33 144 27 84 52

- European Commission contact

Florian Frank, florian.frank@ec.europa.eu, Tel: +32 2 29 97934