SEA-EU research expedition stops over in Kiel on its way to the Arctic

13 Jun 2024 | Network Updates | Update from Kiel University
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On June 3, the research catamaran r/v Oceanograf from the University of Gdansk set off on the BaltArctic research cruise. Organised within the framework of the European university alliance SEA-EU, the cruise took the Oceanograf towards the Arctic.

Carrying out a broad-based international research program, the Oceanograf took an approximately 2900 nautical mile route along the Baltic Sea coast, the Norwegian fjords and onwards towards the Arctic, connecting the SEA-EU universities of Gdansk, Kiel and Bodø. On June 6, the r/v Oceanograf mooed at the “Hörn” in the city of Kiel and welcomed visitors on-board.

"Kiel University has traditionally close ties with the city of Kiel. With the SEA-EU Alliance, we now have a great platform to work even more closely with the City of Kiel, the Port of Kiel and our partners from the entire region, so that together we can find innovative solutions to common challenges. The current expedition with the research catamaran Oceanograf is a great example of the European spirit of cooperation that I have come to appreciate in the SEA-EU Alliance. The expedition brings together scientists from several SEA-EU partners, and we are delighted that Kiel University is also participating," said Professor Ralph Schneider, Vice President for Internationalisation and Early Career Researchers at Kiel University, who welcomed representatives from the University of Gdansk to Kiel in the morning of the 6th June.

Expedition within the framework of the European University Alliance SEA-EU

Nine universities, numerous joint programs for around 150,000 students, researchers, companies and the participating coastal cities - the European University Alliance SEA-EU with a total of nine coastal universities, including Kiel University, forms the framework for numerous transnational activities to strengthen European networks. For the second time since 2022, the Polish research catamaran is the focus of an international SEA-EU expedition, this time heading for Nordic waters. Both the City of Kiel and the Port of Kiel are associated partners within the SEA-EU alliance and represented in the Cities and Ports Council respectively. The visit of the r/v Oceanograf is an opportunity for all stakeholders to build networks between regional and academic partners.

"For us at the City of Kiel, the SEA-EU Alliance represents a fantastic opportunity to attract young talent to Kiel and to work together to find solutions to the social challenges of our time. Through collaborations with our partner cities in the SEA-EU Cities Council, we can strengthen Kiel's visibility as an attractive place to live and work. The BaltArctic Expedition shows the common bond between the coastal cities and the sea," said Wolfgang Schmidt, who represents the state capital of Kiel on the SEA-EU Governing Board.

Research team investigates the influence of brackish water from the Baltic Sea into the Norwegian Sea

On June 7, the ship set sail for Norway and make a port stop in Bergen. The international research team from Poland, Norway, Italy, Spain and Germany investigated how far the outflow of Baltic Sea water can be traced along the Norwegian coast to the north of the Norwegian Sea. According to the ocean models, the brackish water of the Baltic Sea, which is lighter due to its lower salt content, should flow on the water’s surface through the Danish strait and along the Norwegian coast with the Norwegian coastal current into the Barents Sea. The physical and chemical properties were investigated on individual sections of the journey, as was the extent of pollution, for example in the form of heavy metal contaminants or microplastics. The summer months are a good time to conduct this type of research. The brackish water, which is less salty than the North Atlantic, remains on the surface for a long time and carries a relatively high load of pollutants, nutrients and dissolved organic substances from the Baltic Sea, thereby enriching the Nordic waters. 

For Kiel University, Marie Hundsdörfer from Professor Natascha Oppelt's Earth Observation and Modeling (EOM) research group accompanied the third leg of the cruise from Bergen in Norway to Bodø in the north of Norway. The oceanographer carried out optical measurements with RAMSES spectro-radiometers along the coast into the Norwegian fjords, thereby creating depth profiles. These extend from the water surface to a depth of ten meters so that differences in the ratio of incident and reflected radiation can be determined. "Exploring high contrasts between land and water on coasts using remote sensing methods is a challenge. In addition, Norwegian fjord landscapes are repeatedly exposed to disturbances such as shadows or reflections of the sun, so-called "sunglint"," said Hundsdörfer from the EOM resarch group at the Institute of Geography at Kiel University. "We are hoping for good results from our measurements in midsummer, which we can use to validate current Sentinel-2 satellite data," said the oceanographer, describing her research goal.

The 38-day BaltArctic expedition ended on July 5 in Gdansk. The expedition was accompanied by the Polish author Zygmunt Miloszewski. The award-winning crime writer kept a logbook in which he records his perspective on the research.

This article was first published on 3 June by Kiel University.

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