A scientific monitoring network (overseer, ombudsman) for the Arctic whose mandate to reflect on working methods and to find answers to the critical issues facing the Arctic at the global scale.


The Arctic is highly sensitive to climate change. According to climate change models, the gradual receding of the summer sea ice will lead to its seasonal disappearance within the next several decades (AR5 report IPCC, 2007). Even if there are inherent errors in these models, the sudden opening of the Arctic Ocean seems inevitable.
Beyond the cryosphere, major environmental disturbances affecting of all aspects of the climate system have become evident over the past several decades. There is already evidence of current and impeding impacts on marine and terrestrial ecosystems, biodiversity, greenhouse gas cycle and the physcio-chemical equilibrium of the continents, oceans and atmosphere (ACIA report, 2005).


Following the recommendations of a report of the Parlimentary Office for the Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Choices (OPECST), the Ministre de l'Enseignement supérieur et la Recherche, announced, on November 20, 2008, the establishment of a « scientific monitor for the Arctic» with the mandate to "reflect on the working methods and to find answers to the critical global issues facing the Arctic".
The fulfillment of this announcement was entrusted to CNRS-INSU who, with other French organizations (CNRS-INEE, CNRS-INSHS, MAEE, IPEV, Météo France, IFREMER, CNES, CEA, BRGM, MESR), decided to create a « French Arctic Initiative ».

Mission and Issues

An inaugural symposium, held in Paris July 6-7, 2010, to launch the French Arctic Initiative revealed both the abundance and diversity of French Arctic research. It became evident that there was a lack of organization and structure within and between the different communities, partly due to a lack of clarity of the national landscape. Faced with this situation, the implementation of a interdisciplinary type of project was discussed, oriented towards the common concerns of the Ocean-Atmosphere, Continental, Earth Science, Life Science and Social Science research communities.

In the context of this approach, the scientific issues are numerous:

  • Environmental: adaptation of polar ecosystems to changes in the cryosphere, protection of natural environments with regard to the pollution caused by anthropogenic activities
  • Societal: adaptability of local communities to climate change and globalization
  • Economical and political: strategic control of new shipping routes, exploitation of natural resources, evolution of fishing zones, sovereignty over maritime zones of influence and riparian states

The mission of the French Arctic Initiative will be to mobilize the scientific community around these disciplines and to accentuate forward thinking, emphasizing fundamental scientific approaches for use in the Arctic. This type of thinking will permit us to:

  • Understand the causes of climate change and its impact on the environment and human health,
  • Cope with climate change through concrete lines of action for the benefit of the environment, the economy and the population.
Chantier arctique

Installation of an anemometer on the Loven East glacier

Photo Crédit: © AC Marlin / IPEV