Russian-German-Swiss expedition ARCTIC CENTURY returned with precious samples and data to study the impact of climate change in the Russian Arctic

On 6 September 2021 at 9:00 am, the Arctic Century expedition – celebrating 100 years of the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St. Petersburg – safely returned to the port of Murmansk completing a journey that started 4 weeks earlier. A team of 59 scientists from 17 countries gathered data in the Barents, Kara and Laptev Seas as well as on rarely accessible islands in the western high Arctic. All the way to almost 83° north, scientists carried out an extensive interdisciplinary working program at 125 sites on land and at sea as well as measurements of atmospheric parameters in real-time during the whole cruise track.

In recent decades, extreme changes have been observed in the Arctic as a result of global climate change, the rates and impacts of which are a cause for serious concern. The Arctic is warming faster than almost any other territory on Earth. As a result, the region is changing rapidly: glaciers are retreating, sea ice is disappearing, and permafrost is thawing, which, in turn, will further accelerate climate change. Arctic marine and terrestrial ecosystems are changing faster than expected, and the biodiversity is threatened. The opening of new navigation routes and subsequent economic development pose new challenges to marine and terrestrial environments as well as to Arctic coastal communities.

 “Arctic Century was a successful expedition giving us an important snap-shot of global climate change impacts in the Eurasian Arctic. The atmosphere-land-ocean mechanisms and feedbacks in this complex system need to be understood as they will lead to dramatic changes of the Arctic environment” said the expedition’s chief scientist Heidemarie Kassens, from GEOMAR in Germany.

Scientific opportunities were created by combining various research activities, ranging from observing biological organisms to deploying technologically sophisticated instruments in the water, on land and in the air. The large amount of multidisciplinary data was collected through around the clock research activities and the flexibility to adjust plans to variable weather and sea ice conditions, which may yield new insights into the Russian Arctic system. “Interdisciplinary collaboration lies at the heart of climate research and I am delighted that Swiss science could make a such an important contribution to polar research with this year’s expedition” said Prof. Martin Vetterli, President of EPFL and Chair of the Swiss Polar Institute.

“Arctic Century marks the 100th anniversary of Russia’s Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute and also shows the importance of international collaboration in the Arctic. I am delighted that it is such a huge success” added Prof. Aleksandr Makarov, Director of AARI.

Frederik Paulsen is supporting and participating in the expedition. The expedition provides an example of how fundamental research under challenging conditions can be successful through international collaboration of research institutions and a public-private partnership.

For more information about the expedition, we invite you to visit the dedicated webpage Arctic Century Expedition and read the blog.

Contacts for media enquiries

Participants on board

  • 59 scientists and associated scientists, of which 30 early-career (students, PhD, early post-doc)
  • 17 nationalities on board
  • 15 institutions involved (list below)
  • 8 countries of institutions (not nationality of participants)
  • 9 support staff (expedition support, logistics, helicopter pilots, bear guards, …)
  • 65 Crew


Swiss Polar Foundation with the Federal Ministry for Education and Science (Germany) as well as Roshydromet (Russia) and all partner institutions

List of organisers and institutions of participating scientists

  • Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute, St. Petersburg, Russia (AARI)
  • GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany (GEOMAR)
  • Swiss Polar Institute, Sion, Switzerland (SPI)
  • Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia (MSU)
  • A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia (IEE RAS)
  • Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven and Potsdam, Germany (AWI)
  • Ecole Polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL)
  • Université de Lausanne, Switzerland (UNIL)
  • Eidgenössische Technische Universität Zürich, Switzerland (ETH Zurich)
  • Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Switzerland (WSL)
  • Universität Zürich, Switzerland (UZH)
  • Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland (FMI)
  • Institut de Ciències del Mar, Barcelona, Spain (ICM)
  • University of Cape Town, South Africa (UCT)
  • University of Bergen, Norway (UiB)

Header photograph: Scientists have returned to Murmansk on 6 September 2021. © 2021 Swiss Polar Institute, CC BY 4.0