The Arctic remains an area of choice for UMR ThéMA, which is home to the GDR 3042 Polar Changes: Environment and Societies research group that was renewed in 2011. Research into the Arctic environment looks at the relationship between geophysical processes and contemporary climate change, which affects polar regions in particular. The aim is to measure the impact of climate change on:
Glacial, hydrological and permafrost dynamics
Glaciers have been monitored under the ANR Sensor-FLOWS programme on the hydrological and hydrochemical study of the catchment basin of the East Loven glacier (Spitsbergen, 79°N). The findings have shown the importance of glacial and hydrological budgets but also that there remain dark areas on three points that are extremely reactive to climate variations although often overlooked in glaciological studies: snow mantle dynamics, permafrost dynamics on glacier slopes and front, intra- and sub-glacier flows. The subsequent Cryo-Sensors and Prism projects are designed to study the components (snow, glacier and permafrost) of the cryosphere of a polar and continental glacial catchment basin in the context of climatic warming in Spitsbergen.
After local scale studies in Kongsforden (North West Spitsbergen) that showed high covariation of plants and climate, current work is extended to the entire archipelago. A method of extrapolation is put in place to estimate the continuous field of temperatures across the whole archipelago. Comparing the findings with the spatial extension of a hundred or so plant species is indicative of the quality of the model obtained. Special attention will be given to thermophile plants as indicators of climate change. By way of comparison, a third study is made of the vulnerability of the Jura forest to climate change. This study is part of an EAFRD programme (European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) and conducted in partnership with the High Jura regional nature park, ONF and INRA.