IceArc: Arctic Ice Climate and Economics

The project

The ICE-ARC project aims to understand and quantify the multiple stresses involved in the change in the Arctic marine environment. Particular focus is on the rapid retreat and collapse of the Arctic sea ice cover and to assess the climatic (ice, ocean, atmosphere and ecosystem), economic and social impacts of these stresses on regional and global scales.

Observations will focus on reducing the uncertainty in understanding of Arctic physical processes which are vital in climate and ecosystem change. Results of the observational programme will be fed into an ice-ocean-atmosphere model which, after validation, will make projections – with reduced uncertainties – of the rate and nature of future changes in the ice cover, ocean structure and atmospheric temperature and circulation. In parallel with this an ecosystems model will perform the same role for marine living resources.

The resulting projections of the two models will be fed into an economic impact model (PAGE-ICE) that is specially reconfigured for cryosphere-driven impacts. This will calculate the impacts of the projected physical changes upon the global economic and social system, including those of the Arctic region itself. This will be the first time that a leading global impact model has been coupled with a physical climate model to directly assess the economic impact of observed and projected climate change events. We will also investigate the consequences of these changes both on the economics of the area, and social aspects such as on indigenous people. The outputs of the entire project, shall lead to more effective policy and management options for societal responses to climate change.

ICE-ARC (Ice, Climate, Economics – Arctic Research on Change) is a programme funded by the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme. It is a 4 year project that started in 2014.










ICE-ARC is divided into several components, or work packages, with well defined objectives:

WP - Observations

  • To gather observations of the multi-year and first-year sea ice over one season covering the melt/freeze cycle
  • To provide appropriate data sets for validation and development of numerical model parametrisations of relevant processes
  • To test quantitative and novel methods for monitoring sea thickness and ridge distribution changes in time and space (autonomous platforms, airborne, and satellite methods)

WP - Modelling

  • To quantify and reduce uncertainties in climate model projections and to deliver a superior climate model dataset on Arctic marine change (ice cover, air and sea temperature, biological productivity, etc.).
  • To provide those data to socio economic models in the project for selected climate simulations (present to 2100)

WP - Communities

  • To understand the consequences of current and projected changes in sea ice, environment and socio-economic conditions on people’s livelihoods in communities in the Uummannaq, Upernavik and Qaanaaq areas of northwest Greenland
  • To understand how changes in the past affected those communities and their adaptive capacities and survival strategies
  • To provide scientific and policy-focused knowledge that will be used by the economics team for understanding and responding to climate change challenges in order to safeguard Arctic marine living resources for human communities

WP - Economics

  • To adapt the leading integrated assessment model, PAGE, to include the main influences of changes to the Arctic marine environment
  • To assess the social and economic impacts of changes to the Arctic marine environment and identify key socio-economic vulnerabilities and opportunities globally and regionally for the Arctic
  • To value the impacts of Arctic-related climate change and the costs of policies to abate and adapt to the changing Arctic marine environment

The contribution of AWI to the project

The main contribution of AWI will consist of model simulations with a coupled climate model based on improved parameterizations.
Uncertainties in current climate models can only be reduced by increasing our understanding of coupled atmospheric, cryospheric and oceanic processes. The observational benchmark datasets from the observations work package will be used to particularly evaluate model parameterisations of sea ice. Research will focus on understanding the underlying reasons for discrepancies between models and observations. Analysis of remote sensing based data sets will provide additional information on sea ice properties.

Using the improved Earth System Model MPI-ESM (developed at the Max-Planck-Institute for Meteorology) we will make projections of the rate and nature of future changes in the ice cover, ocean structure and atmospheric temperature and circulation.

Futhermore AWI will provide expertise and input to the economic modelling with the PAGE-ICE model in the Economics workpackage.