QUAntifying Rapid Climate Change in the Arctic: regional feedbackS and large-scale impacts

Funded by the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research), Germany

in the framework of „Förderung bilateraler Verbundvorhaben im Rahmen der Wissenschaftlich-Technischen Zusammenarbeit (WTZ) auf dem Gebiet der Polar- und Meeresforschung mit der Russischen Föderation im Rahmenprogramm Forschung für nachhaltige Entwicklung – FONA³“

Project duration:

•    1.3.2017 until 30.06.2021.


Our consortium includes the following scientists:

Alfred Wegener Institute, section  Atmospheric Physics: Dr. Annette Rinke, Dr. Dörthe Handorf, Dr. Marion Maturilli, Dr. R. Jaiser, Dr. W. Dorn, Dr. R. Neuber, Dr. C. Ritter, A. Schulz, Prof. K. Dethloff, Dr. X. Yu

Alfred Wegener Institute, section Sea Ice Physics: Prof. C. Haas, Dr. T. Krumpen, J. Belter

Alfred Wegener Institute, section Polar Biological Oceanography: Dr. Barbara Niehoff, Dr. Nicola Hildebrandt

Obukhov Institute for Atmospheric Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow : Prof. I. Mokhov, Dr. M. Akperov, Dr. V. Semenov, Dr. V. Khon, Dr. P. Demchenko, Dr. A. Chernokulsky, Dr. M. Arzhanov, Dr. S. Denisov, Dr. K. Muryshev, Dr. F. Pogarsky, Dr. D. Chechin, Dr. K. Shukurov and PhD students A. Timazhev, M. Dembitskaya, E. Astafieva

Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, St. Petersburg : Dr. V. Smolyanitsky, Dr. S. Klyachkin, Dr. B. Ivanov, Dr. V. Lagun and PhD students T. Alekseeva, D. Demchev, A. Urazkildeeva, Y. Sokolova

P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow: Dr. K. Kosobokova, Dr. A. Sazhin, Dr. N. Romanova, Dr. E. Ershova, J. Vasilyeva, Dr. D. Kulagin

Project summary

The proposed joint research project between the three German AWI research sections in Potsdam and Bremerhaven and 3 Russian institutions focusses on the following 5 main topics:
•    Quantification of spatio-temporal variability and trend in key Arctic atmospheric and sea ice variables based on satellite and in-situ data sets (WP1)
•    Regional feedback mechanisms responsible for Arctic climate change (WP2)
•    Interaction between Arctic climate change and atmospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere (WP3)
•    Cyclone and wind-wave activities influencing sea ice dynamics and risk of navigation along Northern Sea routes (WP4)
•    Impact of Arctic sea ice and cyclones on biodiversity and productivity of the Arctic marine biota (WP5)
WP1 will quantify the strength of climatic changes in the Arctic based on unique Russian in-situ and satellite data for sea ice and ocean variables and atmospheric key parameters. WP2 will improve the regional feedbacks between the Arctic atmosphere, ocean, sea ice, and snow in a regional coupled climate model. The simulated trends will be evaluated with observational in-situ and satellite data provided by WP1. Further, shortcomings in sub-grid scale parameterizations (boundary layer turbulence and clouds) will be investigated. These improved parameterizations will be implemented into the regional and global climate models applied for climate studies in WP2 and WP3. WP3 will explore the key processes for Arctic climate change and its impacts on Eurasian weather and climate. Particular attention will be paid on mechanisms that generate extreme weather events, including quasi-stationary planetary wave patterns, summer heat waves and jet stream patterns. WP4 will investigate the impact of extreme weather events, synoptic and mesoscale cyclones, and ice dynamic change for timely constrained ship connections between Europe and Asia along the Siberian coast. POLARIS (Polar Operational Limit Assessment Risk Indexing System) navigation risk and types of ice conditions criteria will be computed and used to represent changes in navigation conditions through the Northern Sea Route. WP5 connects Arctic climate changes and sea ice decline evaluated in WP1-4 to biodiversity and biological productivity changes in the Arctic Ocean. WP5 will show that regional variations in environmental conditions cause changes in diversity and productivity of biota forming the base of Arctic food chain.

Main objectives of the project

With this project we contribute to three of the four topics, mentioned in the BMBF call, namely Arctic sea ice retreat and impacts on marine systems, Arctic climate change in time and space and Arctic biodiversity in a changing world.
We will deliver contributions to Arctic sea ice retreat and impacts on marine systems by exploiting unique satellite data and decadal-long Russian in-situ data sets, AARIs ocean-ice model and the state-of-the-art coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean regional climate model of the Arctic (HIRHAM-NAOSIM) with high resolution and by performing ensemble simulations with a global atmospheric climate model (ECHAM5/, ECHAM6) and global coupled climate model (ECHAM6-FESOM).
•    The hierarchy of these models will be used to interpret the trends in the observational data and to distinguish between oceanic and atmospheric drivers for sea ice changes.
•    The regional patterns of atmospheric and sea ice dynamics will be determined and their seasonal and inter-annual variability and climatic trends will be computed.
•    The regional and global feedbacks between atmosphere, sea ice and impacts on ocean circulation systems will be determined.
•    The role of changed Arctic sea ice conditions for Northern Sea routes will be computed using POLARIS criteria for current climate conditions and by using regional (Arctic CORDEX) and global (CMIP5 and CMIP6) climate scenario simulations.
•    Large regional variations of environmental conditions between regions of sea ice growth and decline and cyclonic impacts cause substantial changes in diversity and productivity of biota forming the base of the Arctic food chain. To outline possible scenarios of potential changes in the Arctic marine biota we will investigate the ways in which sea ice affects marine pelagic ecosystem function.

Arctic climate change in time and space will be determined by exploiting the above-mentioned synthesis of global and regional climate model simulations and in-situ and satellite data sets.
•    The strength of different regional mechanisms contributing to Arctic amplification by effects of radiation, clouds, surface air temperature and sea-level pressure will be analyzed based on station observations in Spitsbergen, Russian North Pole drifting stations, expeditionary vessels, airborne surveys, historical ice charting since 1933 and reanalysis data (e. g. ERA-Interim Data).
•    We will link the seasonal evolution and inter-annual variability in ice extent, motion and thickness to large-scale atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns and regional physical feedback mechanisms. This will contribute to a better understanding and predictability of ice conditions along the Northern Sea Route.
•    We examine how sea ice retreat in summer affects transport and incorporation of sediments and pollutants. Using satellite data, we investigate potential source areas and sinks and the effect of a changing sea ice cover in summer on the biological and biogeochemical cycle.
•    Centennial long changes (1930s to present) in Arctic sea ice and corresponding atmospheric parameters will be determined using all nowadays available historical collections of the ice charting material (Russia, Canada etc.) which will be further used to recover patterns of sea ice concentrations and proxy for ice thickness.
•    The role of internal atmospheric variability, direct radiative forcing and observed sea surface temperature and sea ice concentration changes for the recent climate trends in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions will be estimated using large ensemble AMIP-type ECHAM5/6 simulations.
•    The role of regional feedbacks in the Arctic for Eurasian teleconnection patterns will be determined based on simulations with the coupled model ECHAM6-FESOM.
Arctic biodiversity in a changing world will be determined based on investigations of regional and temporal changes in species richness/diversity and productivity of lower trophic levels of the Arctic food web (marine plankton and ice-associated biota) in the regions of sea ice melt and sea ice growth and cyclonic activity.
•    Relations between ice cover and biodiversity, community structure and productivity of sea ice algae, phototrophic and heterotrophic species of pico-, nano- and microplankton, bacterioplankton will be explored in the Kara, White and Barents Seas and in the region of Eurasian continental slope during different seasonal phases of ice formation and ice melt.
•    Regional and temporal changes in zooplankton biodiversity, community structure and productivity will be analyzed in relation to recent changes of ice conditions based on data on mesozooplankton collected in the Eurasian Arctic during last two decades.
•    Data obtained will be used to elaborate potential scenarios of future change of the Arctic pelagic biodiversity and productivity.

A main aim of QUARCCS is to improve our understanding of the functioning of the Arctic coupled system with a complex interplay between processes in the atmosphere-, ocean-sea ice system (WP1-3) the impact on navigation (WP4) and biological systems (WP5). In this way QUARRCS plays the role of a pilot study for the international flagship activity MOSAiC under the auspices of BMBF.



July 2020: QUARCCS wins the Award for German-Russian Science Projects within the framework of the year of German-Russian research cooperation’s (https://russia-germany-cooperation.ru/wettbewerb/). It was a competition to award prizes for outstanding German-Russian science projects. QUARCCS project has been awared in the category top-level research.  View the corresponding website, picture, and video.


Phase 1



WP1: Quantification of observed spatio-temporal variability and trends in key atmospheric and sea ice variables

  •  Atmospheric temperature and moisture trends and their variability in time and space, with a regional focus on Svalbard
  •  Analysis of cloud and radiation data
  •  Turbulent fluxes over different Arctic surfaces
  •  Understanding and quantitative description of regional atmospheric feedback mechanisms
  •  Centennial changes in Arctic sea ice (1930s to present)
  •  Sea ice changes based on in-situ observations
  •  Satellite based seasonal and inter-annual variability and trends of sea ice parameters
  •  Impact of winter ice production and export on Siberian shelves on summer ice conditions in the Transpolar Drift
  •  Impact of spring/summer atmospheric forcing on breakup of fast ice and pack ice retreat processes

WP2: Regional simulations of atmosphere-ocean-sea ice interactions

  • Ensemble simulations with the coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean RCM HIRHAM-NAOSIM, laterally driven by ERA-Interim data from 1979 to present
  • Evaluation of simulated key atmosphere and sea ice variables, and their seasonal and inter-annual variability and climatic trends
  • Impact of model’s parameterizations (e.g., mixed-phase clouds, ice-atmosphere drag coefficient) on the model performance
  • Sea ice dynamics: drift and deformation
  • Regional feedback mechanisms relevant

WP3: Interaction between Arctic climate change and atmospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere

  • Characterization of recent changes in Arctic/Sub-Arctic synoptic scale variability and mid-latitude atmospheric large-scale circulation based on reanalysis data and model simulations (global and regional)
  • Effects of sea ice on the synoptic-scale and large-scale circulation characteristics for different seasonal conditions
  • Synoptic-planetary scale wave interactions
  • Role of recent Arctic sea ice retreat for extreme events (e.g., cold air outbreaks in Europe)
  • Role of internal atmospheric variability, direct radiative forcing and observed SST/SIC changes in the recent Arctic climate trends
  • Links between Arctic sea ice, SST, atmospheric circulation and changes in temperature and precipitation in Europe

WP4: Cyclones, wind-waves and ice dynamics and Northern Sea routes

  • Ability of state-of-the-art climate models to reproduce cyclone characteristics in the Arctic
  • Cyclone activity impact on variations of sea ice along the Northern Sea route
  • Computation of length of navigation season for the Northern Sea route along the Russian coast
  • Retrospective modeling of synoptic sea ice dynamics and quantification trends in risks of navigation

WP5: Impact of Arctic sea ice on biodiversity and productivity

  • Structure and functioning of sea ice biota communities
  • Seasonality of production of sea ice and pelagic communities
  • Biodiversity and trophic interactions in mesozooplankton communities
  • Impact of sea ice on the distribution of zooplankton key species
  • Patterns of sea ice parameters


Phase 2



WP1 Variability of sea-ice thickness in the Fram Strait and ice formation processes in the source regions

  • Compilation of sea-ice thickness information for 2001-2017 and MOSAiC
  • Application of the IceTrack tool to identify drift pathes and source regions
  • Relative role of atmospheric and oceanic forcing factors
  • Ice drift in the coupled regional climate model HIRHAM-NAOSIM

WP2 Atmospheric impact factors for sea-ice variability

  • Advection of moist warm air into the Arctic
  • Cold air outbreaks
  • Selected events based on long-term observations at AWIPEV station in Ny-Ålesund and on MOSAiC observations
  • Analysis of reanalyses and application of model ICON-regional
  • Impact of event-related changes in the atmosphere on the surface energy budget

WP3 Improved atmosphere-ice interactions and large-scale atmospheric circulation

  • Improved description of turbulent momentum and heat fluxes over sea ice  (Lüpkes and Gryanik, 2015)
  • Simulations with coupled regional climate model HIRHAM-NAOSIM and coupled global climate model AWI-CM
  • Time slice experiments with global atmospheric model ECHAM6 for different sea-ice scenarios, following PAMIP (Polar Amplification Model Intercomparison Project, Smith et al., 2019)
  • Attribution of changes in atmospheric circulation to specfic impact factors
  • Changes in atmospheric circulation: changes in frequency of occurrence and character of regimes, Arctic - mid-latitude linkages

WP4 Impact of sea ice on biodiversity and productivity

  • Abundance and composition of zooplankton communities in the Fram Strait and Arctic Ocean
  • Correlation of zooplankton population with sea-ice conditions (source, age, thickness, duration of ice cover)
  • Investigation of key species: Calanaus glacialis, Oithona similis und Oncea spp.


Meetings & Publications


Kick-Off Meeting, June 2017, Potsdam

Second Meeting, June 2018, Moscow

Download agenda here...

Third Meeting, June 2019, Bremerhaven

Download agenda here...

Scientific workshop "Towards a New Arctic Climate System" (CATS / QUARCCS), December 2019, St. Petersburg

Download agenda here...



Akperov, M., A. Rinke, I.I. Mokhov, H. Matthes, V.A. Semenov, M. Adakudlu, J. Cassano, J.H. Christensen, M.A. Dembitskaya, K. Dethloff, X. Fettweis, J. Glisan, O. Gutjahr, G. Heinemann, T. Koenigk, N.V. Koldunov, R. Laprise, R. Mottram, O. Nikiéma, J.F. Scinocca, D. Sein, S. Sobolowski, K. Winger, and W. Zhang (2017), Cyclone activity in the Arctic from an ensemble of regional climate models (Arctic CORDEX), J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1002/2017JD027703

Crasemann, B. D. Handorf, R. Jaiser, K. Dethloff, T. Nakamura, J. Ukita, and K. Yamazaki (2017), Can preferred atmospheric circulation patterns over the North-Atlantic-Eurasian region be associated with Arctic sea ice loss? Polar Science, 14, pp 9-20, doi:10.1016/j.polar.2017.09.002

Itkin, P. and T. Krumpen (2017), Winter sea ice export from the Laptev Sea preconditions the local summer sea ice cover and fast ice decay, The Cryosphere, 11, doi:10.5194/tc-11-2383-2017

Krumpen, T. (2017), ICETrack - Antarctic and Arctic Sea Ice Monitoring and Tracking Tool, Vers. 1.0, http://epic.awi.de/45226/

Krumpen, T. (2017), Sea Ice and Atmospheric Conditions at HAUSGARTEN between 2000-2016 (daily resolution), link to model results. Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, PANGAEA, doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.878244

Selyuzhenok, V., Mahoney, A., Krumpen, T., Castellani, G. and Gerdes, R. (2017), Mechanisms of fast-ice development in the south-eastern Laptev Sea: a case study for winter of 2007/08 and 2009/10, Polar Research, 36 (1)

Rinke, A., M. Maturilli, R.M. Graham, H. Matthes, D. Handorf, L. Cohen, S.R. Hudson, and J.C. Moore (2017), Extreme cyclone events in the Arctic: Wintertime variability and trends, Envir. Res. Lett., doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aa7def


Akperov, M., A. Rinke, and the Arctic Cordex Team, (2018), Cyclone activity in the Arctic from an ensemble of regional climate models (Arctic CORDEX), J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1002/2017JD027703

Damm, E., D. Bauch, T. Krumpen, B. Rabe, M. Krohonen, E. L. Vinogradova, and C. Uhlig, (2018), The Transpolar Drift conveys methane from the Siberian Shelf to the central Arctic Ocean, Nature Scientific Reports, 8, doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-22801-z

Dorn, W., A. Rinke, C. Köberle, K. Dethloff, and R. Gerdes, (2018), HIRHAM–NAOSIM 2.0: The upgraded version of the coupled regional atmosphere-ocean-sea ice model for Arctic climate studies, Geosci. Model Dev. Discuss., doi:10.5194/gmd-2018-278

Peeken, I., S. Primpke, B. Beyer, J. Gütermann, C. Katlein, T. Krumpen, M. Bergmann, L. Hehemann, and G. Gerdts, (2018), Arctic sea ice is an important temporal sink and means of transport for microplastic, Nature Comm., 9, 1505, doi:10.1038/s41467-018-03825-5

Ricker, R., F. Girard-Ardhuin, T. Krumpen, and C. Lique, (2018) Satellite-derived sea ice export and its impact on Arctic ice mass balance, The Cryosphere, 12, 3017-3032, doi:10.5194/tc-12-3017-2018

Rinke, A., D. Handorf, W. Dorn, K. Dethloff, J.C. Moore, and X. Zhang (2018), Atmospheric feedbacks on Arctic summer sea-ice anomalies in ensemble simulations of a coupled regional climate model, Adv. Polar Sci., 29 (3), 156-164, doi:10.13679/j.advps.2018.3.0015

Rosell, A., P. Itkin, J. King, D. Divine, C. Wang, M. Granskog, T. Krumpen, and S. Gerland, (2018) Thin sea ice, thick snow, and widespread negative freeboard observed during N-ICE2015 north of Svalbard, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, doi:10.1002/2017JC012865

Rutgers van der Loeff, M., L. Kipp, M. A. Charette, W. S. Moore, E. Black, I. Stimac, A. Charkin, D. Bauch, O. Valk, M. Karcher, T. Krumpen, N. Casacuberta, W. Smethie, and R. Rember, (2018), Radium isotopes across the Arctic ocean show time scales of water mass ventilation and increasing shelf inputs, J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, doi:10.1029/2018JC013888

Wekerle, C., T. Krumpen, T. Dinter, W. von Appen, I. Morten, I. Salter, (2018), Properties of sediment trap catchment areas in Fram Strait: Results from Langrangian modeling and remote sensing, Frontiers in Marine Science, 5, doi:10.3389/fmars.2018.00407

Zahn, M., M. Akperov, A. Rinke, F. Feser, and I.I. Mokhov, (2018), Trends of cyclone characteristics in the Arctic and their patterns from different re-analysis data, J. Geophys. Res., doi:10.1002/2017JD027439


Akperov, M.G., I. I. Mokhov, M. A. Dembitskaya, M. R. Parfenova, and A. Rinke, (2019), Lapse rate peculiarities in the Arctic from reanalysis data and model simulations, Russian Meteorology and Hydrology, 44, 97-102, doi:10.3103/S106837391902002X

Akperov, M., A. Rinke, and 20 co-authors, (2019), Future projections of cyclone activity in the Arctic for the 21st century from regional climate models (Arctic-CORDEX), Glob. Planet. Change, doi:10.1016/j.gloplacha.2019.103005

Akperov, M., A. Rinke, and 23 co-authors, (2019), Trends of intense cyclone activity in the Arctic from reanalyses data and regional climate models (Arctic-CORDEX), IOP Conf. Ser.: Earth Environ. Sci., 231, 012003, doi:10.1088/1755-1315/231/1/012003

Akperov, M., V. Semenov, I. Mokhov, W. Dorn, and A. Rinke, (2019), Impact of Atlantic water inflow on winter cyclone activity in the Barents Sea: Insights from coupled regional climate model simulations, Envir. Res. Lett., doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ab6399

Dorn, W., A. Rinke, C. Köberle, K. Dethloff, and R. Gerdes, (2019), Evaluation of the sea-ice simulation in the upgraded version of the coupled regional atmosphere-ocean-sea ice model HIRHAM–NAOSIM 2.0, Atmosphere, 10, 431, doi:10.3390/atmos10080431

Jaiser, R., D. Handorf, K. Dethloff, (2019), Interaction of diabatic processes, eddies and the mean flow of the atmospheric circulation over the Atlantic, Arctic and Eurasia, Adv. Polar Sci., 2019, 30(3), doi:10.13679/j.advps.2019.3.000xx

Krumpen, T., J. Belter, A. Boetius, E. Damm, C. Haas, S. Hendricks, M. Nicolaus, E. M. Nöthig, S. Paul, I. Peeken, R. Ricker, R. Stein, (2019), Arctic warming interrupts the Transpolar Drift and affects longrange transport of sea ice and ice-rafted matter, Scientific Reports 9, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-41456-y

Rinke, A., E. Knudsen, D. Mewes, W. Dorn, D. Handorf, K. Dethloff, and J. C. Moore, (2019), Arctic summer sea-ice melt and related atmospheric conditions in coupled regional climate model simulations, J. Geophys. Res., 124, doi:10.1029/2018JD030207

Romanowsky, E., D. Handorf, R. Jaiser, I. Wohltmann, W. Dorn, J. Ukita, J. Cohen, K. Dethloff, M. Rex, (2019), The role of stratospheric ozone for Arctic-midlatitude linkages, Sci. Rep. 9, 7962, doi:10.1038/s41598-019-43823-1

Semenov, A., X. Zhang, A. Rinke, W. Dorn, K. Dethloff, (2019), Arctic intense summer storms and their impacts on sea ice - a regional climate modeling study, Atmosphere, 10, 218, doi:10.3390/atmos10040218


Belter, H. J., T. Krumpen, S. Hendricks, J. Hoelemann, M. Janout, R. Ricker, and C. Haas, (2020), Satellite-based sea ice thickness changes in the Laptev Sea from 2002 to 2017: comparison to mooring observations , The Cryosphere, 14, pp. 2189-2203, doi:10.5194/tc-14-2189-2020

Dahlke, S., N. E. Hughes, P. M. Wagner, S. Gerland, T. Wawrzyniak, B. Ivanov, and M. Maturilli, (2020), The observed recent surface air temperature development across Svalbard and concurring footprints in local sea ice cover, International Journal of Climatology, pp. 1-20, doi:10.1002/joc.6517

Yu, X., A. Rinke, W. Dorn, G. Spreen, C. Lüpkes, H. Sumata, and V. Gryanik, (2020)  Evaluation of Arctic sea-ice drift and its dependency on near-surface wind and sea-ice concentration and thickness in the coupled regional climate model HIRHAM-NAOSIM, The Cryosphere, 14, 1727–1746, doi:10.5194/tc-14-1727-2020

Principal applicant from Germany:

Dr. Annette Rinke,

Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research,

Telegrafenberg A43, 14473 Potsdam, Germany,

++49 (0) 331 2882130,

e-mail: Annette.Rinke@awi.de

Principal applicant from Russia:

Prof. Igor Mokhov,

Obukhov Institute of Atmospheric Physics,

Russian Academy of Sciences, 119017 Moscow, 3 Pyzhevsky, Russia,

++7 495 951 5565,

e-mail: mokhov@ifaran.ru