Long-Term Monitoring of the Konfsfjorden System in the Arctic for Climate Change Studies


Kongsfjorden, an icy archipelago having a length of about 40 km and width ranging from 5 to 10 km, is a glacial fjord in the Arctic (Svalbard). It lies in the northwest coast of Spitsbergen, the main island of Svalbard, and is a site where warmer waters of the Atlantic meet the colder waters of the Arctic. Being an open fjord without sill it is largely influenced by the processes on the adjacent shelf. The Transformed Atlantic Water (TWA) from the west Spitsbergen current and the glacier-melt freshwater at the inner fjord creates strong temperature and salinity gradients along the length of the fjord. Southerly winds will produce down-welling at the coast and cause hindrance on exchange processes between the shelf and the fjord, while the northerly winds will move the TWA water below the upper layer towards the coast. The melt water during summer not only stratifies the upper water column but significantly alters the turbidity. This would have profound influence on the seasonality in the phytoplankton biomass and primary production. Thus, an altered interaction between the Atlantic water with the (turbid) melt waters from tidal glaciers on a seasonal to inter-annual time-scale is likely to affect the pelagic ecosystem in the fjord. Alternately, the benthic ecosystem is more likely to be affected by long-term changes in the fjord hydrography and sedimentation.

Ever since India commenced her scientific activities in the Arctic realm, one of the major locales of study has been the Kongsfjorden system. Considering the scope of scientific research the locale afforded and the fact that an integrated study of the fjord has been has been identified as a flagship program of the Svalbard Research Program (SSF), NCPOR in consultation with the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) began exploring the feasibility of initiating a major long-term program on the fjord during 2009-10. The basic background data collection on the hydrodynamic, hydrochemical and biological characteristics of the fjord were initiated by NCPOR during the summer of 2010. The encouraging results of the initial data collected and the positive response by the NPI to India’s proposal has culminated in the plans to implement the studies as a long-term national programme

a) Objectives:

The overall objective of the studies planned is to establish a long-term comprehensive physical, chemical, biological and atmospheric measurement programme aimed at understanding:

  1. The variability in the Arctic/Atlantic climate signal by understanding the interaction between the freshwater from the glacial run-off and Atlantic water from the west Spitsbergen current.
  2. The effect of interaction between the warm Atlantic water and the cold glacial-melt fresh water on the biological productivity and phytoplankton species composition and diversity within the fjord.
  3. The winter convection and its role in the biogeochemical cycling.
  4. The trigger mechanism of spring bloom and its temporal variability and biomass production.
  5. The production and export of organic carbon in the fjord with a view to quantify the CO2 flux.

b) Participating Institutions:

National Centre for Polar & Ocean Research, Goa

c) Implementation Plans:

It is proposed to implement the programme under the aegis of NCPOR and NIO from the Indian side and the NPI from the Norwegian side. The deployment of the mooring and its maintenance shall be done in concert with and by NIOT/INCOIS.One ocean-atmosphere mooring will be deployed in the central region of the Kongsfjorden fjord for long-term measurement. The mooring is proposed for an initial 5-year period which will be extended for another 5-year after assessing the performance. This will help addressing the climate change issues.

d) Deliverables:

The scientific studies proposed will contribute significantly to the global community’s ongoing efforts in understanding the climate change phenomena in the Arctic as well as the ecosystem responses if any, to short-term climatic variabilities..

e) Budget requirement : 57 crores

(Rs. In Crores)

Budget Requirement
Name of Scheme2012-132013-142014-152015-162016-17Total
Long-term monitoring of the Konfsfjorden system in the Arctic for climate change studies11.0011.0016.007.0012.0057.00


Last Updated On 08/14/2018 - 10:43
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