Research expedition to the Arctic sets sail

31 July sees the start of the Swedish-American research expedition Arctic Ocean 2018. Forty researchers from all over the world will be based and work on board the Swedish icebreaker Oden whilst moored to a moving ice floe. The overall theme of the expedition is the formation of clouds. Clouds play a very important role in the Arctic climate but how are they affected by the microbiological life in and beneath the ice?

The Arctic climate is changing faster than anywhere else in the world with the Arctic ice pack shrinking at an alarming rate.  To better understand how climate change affects the Arctic is the key to predicting the global climate of the future.

Clouds play an important role in our climate as they regulate the amount of solar radiation that reaches the surface of the earth. They also impact on the energy that flows along the earth’s surface which in turn, affects the freezing and melting of the sea ice. Clouds are made up of small droplets and ice crystals that form in certain wind, moisture and temperature conditions. The condensation and formation of cloud droplets is dependent on the existence of small atmospheric particles or aerosols in the atmosphere. The aerosols in the Arctic atmosphere originate from the microbiological life in the sea and ice. The more the sea opens up when the Arctic ice pack melts, the more biological particles bubble out into the atmosphere, a process that may lead to increased cloud formation and the ice freezing earlier in the season. This is an area that the researchers on board Oden want to look into more closely.

“Deglaciation has occurred faster than anticipated. Perhaps the Northeast Passage will be passable by merchant vessels as early as in ten years’ time? If so, it would have a huge impact on the dynamics of international political economy. Clouds play a central role in the Arctic climate.  Consequently, we must rise to the challenge and carry out onsite studies into the link between life in the sea and cloud formations, a logistical and technical challenge beyond the ordinary in inhospitable and inaccessible areas of the North Pole”, says Caroline Leck, Professor of Chemical Meteorology at the Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University and Swedish Co-Chief Scientist for the expedition.

The ice breaker Oden will be moored to a large ice floe in the middle of the high Arctic Ocean for one month. During this time, various research teams with different areas of specialisation will remain on board, taking measurements and collecting vital statistics from the sea, ice and air. Together, the different research projects aim to provide a better insight into how the varying sections of the complex Arctic system are linked together.

The researchers return from their expedition at the end of September. Arctic Ocean 2018 is a research expedition conducted by the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat together with the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the USA and the result of several years of collaborations between Sweden and the USA for the purpose of strengthening research in the Arctic.

“I look forward to a very collaborative expedition for all participants. The support of research and logistics by NSF Polar Programs and by the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat for this cruise will lead to a successful integration of US-led and European-led research projects, in an interdisciplinary and coordinated manner. It will be an excellent training and networking opportunity for the graduate students and postdoctoral researchers on board Oden”, says Patricia Matrai, Senior Research Scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, and American Co-Chief Scientist for the expedition.

Contact details

Caroline Leck, Professor of Chemical Meteorology at the Department of Meteorology, Stockholm University. Tel: +46 8 16 43 54, Mobile: +46 70 733 38 81, E-mail:

Patricia Matrai, Senior Research Scientist, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Tel: +1 207 315-2567 – extension 305, E-mail:

Once departed from Svalbard on 31 July, it will be difficult to keep in contact with the researchers. Please contact and who will be able to contact members of the expedition. For questions to Patricia Matrai, please contact

About the expedition

Learn more about and follow the expedition via the Swedish Polar Research Portal.

About the icebreaker Oden

A key factor in the success of Swedish and international polar research is the ongoing cooperation between the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat and Swedish Maritime Administration who together, have made Oden into a truly unique research platform.

Read more about the ice breaker Oden on the website of the Swedish Maritime Administration

Last modified: 28 March 2019