WP1: Continental rifting and breakup processes

Work package leaders: Jan Inge Faleide (UiO), Kim Senger (UNIS)
Contributions from: Snorre Olaussen (UNIS), Alexander Minakov (UiO), Johannes Schweitzer (NORSAR), Rolf Mjelde (UiB), Susanne Buiter (NGU)


The Lomonosov Ridge, a narrow continental sliver extending for more than 1500 km, is a unique geological structure on Earth. It separated from the northern Barents Shelf during initial opening of the Eurasia Basin in earliest Eocene time (about 55 mill years ago). The crustal architecture of the conjugate northern Barents Sea and Lomonosov Ridge margins is characterized by a sharp continent-ocean transition more typical for sheared margins than rifted margins (Minakov et al. 2012a). These conjugate margins may be classified as magma-poor along most of their lengths. In the western Eurasia Basin, the partly volcanic Yermak Plateau and Morris Jesup Rise form conjugate features that start to overlap in plate reconstructions long before closure of the entire Eurasia Basin (Engen et al. 2008; Jokat et al. 2016). This segment of the Eurasia Basin developed close to contraction/shortening in the Eurekan and Spitsbergen fold-and-thrust belts during Eocene time (Bergh et al. 1997; Leever et al. 2011; Piepjohn et al. 2016). Furthermore, the line of breakup cross-cuts the structural grain of the northern Barents Shelf and Svalbard at a high angle.

In WP1 we will study the tectonic setting and geological processes that prevailed during breakup between the Lomonosov Ridge and the northern Barents Shelf, and between the Yermak Plateau and Morris Jesup Rise. The study implies acquisition of geological and geophysical data from onshore Svalbard across the Eurasia Basin to the Lomonosov Ridge.

Main objective

Identify the main controls on rifting/breakup processes that formed the Lomonosov Ridge, Yermak Plateau and Morris Jesup Rise. To achieve this we have to improve our understanding of the links between deep and shallow processes, and between vertical and horizontal movements (plate tectonics). Additional (secondary) objectives include: Inheritance and cross-cutting relationships, dynamics of rifting (processes of rifting, obliqueness, propagation…), mantle rheology and structure/processes, tectonic pre-glacial uplift. Furthermore, we need to understand how an orogenic belt (Eurekan-Spitsbergen) could co-exist with an incipient oceanic basin in early Cenozoic times.

WP2: Ultra-slow Oceanic Spreading – understanding the structure and evolution of the Gakkel Ridge

Work package leaders: Rolf B. Pedersen (UiB), Carmen Gaina (CEED, UiO)
Contributions from: Cedric Hamelin (UiB), Kuvvet Atakan (UiB), Johannes Schweitzer (NORSAR)


The present day geological frontier between Eurasia and North America, two major tectonic plates, runs through the Eurasian Basin along the Gakkel Ridge (previously known as Nansen cordillera). Along this divergent plate boundary, seafloor spreading is taking place, creating new oceanic lithosphere. Gakkel Ridge started its activity with an intermediate spreading rate in the Late Paleocene-Early Eocene (e.g. Glebowsky et al. 2006), but regional tectonic events forced this system to slow down in the Late Eocene (around 43-40 Ma) and in the Oligocene (around 30 Ma) (e.g. Gaina et al. 2015). Presently, it is the slowest mid-ocean ridge on Earth, with a full spreading rate decreasing eastward from 14.6 mm/yr to 6 mm/yr (e.g. Jokat et al. 2003; Savostin et al. 1984; Dick et al. 2003).

Ocean ridges spreading at less than 20 mm.yr-1 have been far less studied than their fast spreading counterparts and the first comprehensive descriptions of the ultraslow-spreading class of ocean ridges had to wait until the last decade (Dick et al. 2003; Jokat et al. 2003). The effect of such slow spreading on oceanic lithosphere accretion was projected to produce on-axis colder thermal regime, therefore impeding magma generation. In this scenario, Gakkel Ridge should have sparse volcanism due to low extents of mantle melting, very little hydrothermal activity and a dominance of exhumed peridotites over basalts (Dick 1989). However, published data from Gakkel Ridge have now challenged this prediction and provided new insights into the structure and development of ultraslow spreading centers (e.g. Jokat et al. 2003; Jokat and Scmidt-Aursch 2007). Current knowledge indicates that the present-day ridge is segmented into contrasting amagmatic and volcanic sections (e.g. Michael et al. 2003) and is characterized by an uneven lithosphere-asthenosphere boundary (Schlindwein and Schmid 2016). Despite its ultra-slow spreading tectonic regime, Gakkel Ridge seems to show a large range in magma supply and a remarkable occurrence of hydrothermal sites.

Main objective

Identify the geology, architecture and evolution of Gakkel Ridge and its flanks. It examines how variations of volcano-tectonic processes are influencing the oceanic lithosphere accretion at such ultra-slow spreading. Using modern deep-sea exploration technology, we aim to produce unprecedented detailed pictures of the seafloor, coupled with high-resolution sampling of the ridge. These new data combined with direct observations by ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) are an opportunity to study the interplay between faults, volcanism, hydrothermal circulation and life. Another key objective of this work package is to understand the evolution of the plate boundary within the Eurasia Basin through time, and construct a comprehensive model of this basin since the Eocene. Integrating new and published geophysical data will be critical in order to succeed in the task of linking our knowledge about the Eurasian Basin basement morphology and sedimentary deposits to variations in the Arctic paleo-bathymetry and paleoclimate.

WP3: Greenhouse – Icehouse fluctuations in the Arctic Ocean and their role in the global climate system – integrating marine and terrestrial geological records

Work package leaders: Astrid Lyså (NGU), Matthias Forwick (UiT)
Contributions from: Jochen Knies (NGU), Katrine Husum (NPI), Tom Arne Rydningen (UiT), Lena Håkansson (UNIS), Jan Sverre Laberg (UiT), Nele Meckler (UiB), Bjørg Risebrobakken (UniResearch), Riko Noormets (UNIS)


The Arctic Ocean belongs to the region on Earth that is currently exposed to the most dramatic climatic and environmental changes (IPCC 2014). Also in the geological past, i.e. during Cenozoic times, the Arctic Ocean was an area where marked changes from “Greenhouse Climate” with surface-water temperatures of up to 25 °C to perennial sea-ice cover occurred (e.g. Moran et al. 2006; Sluijs et al. 2006; Backman and Moran 2008). In addition to the orbitally driven climatic changes, the Arctic Ocean transformed due to tectonic changes from a lake to an ocean, thus obtaining an essential role in the global ocean circulation. The timing and nature of this development is closely linked to the opening of the Fram Strait, the only deep-water gateway linking the Arctic Ocean to the global ocean circulation, and an important prerequisite for the development of the modern ocean circulation system (Kristoffersen 1990; Jakobsson et al. 2007; Engen et al. 2008).

Thus far, long-term reconstructions of Cenozoic climatic change in the Arctic are based on very few and incomplete marine records from the Lomonosov Ridge (IODP Expedition 302; ACEX; e.g. Backman et al. 2008) and the Yermak Plateau (ODP Leg 151; e.g. Thiede et al. 1996). This is due to the difficulty of accessing the area because of sea ice, but also because post-depositional modifications have in many cases altered the sediment packages. Furthermore, limited onshore and offshore studies reveal only the youngest part of a generally fragmentary Quaternary record (Ingolfsson and Landvik 2013). The sparse knowledge about the environmental development of the Arctic Ocean requires additional investigation and the integration of terrestrial and marine records as proposed in this work package.

Main objective

Improve the understanding of the Cenozoic geological, climatological and oceanographic evolution of the Arctic Ocean and, thereby, enhance the understanding of natural climate variability at high northern latitudes, as well as to infer the role of the Arctic in the global climatic and oceanographic system. The success of the work package will depend on the integration of marine and terrestrial records, as well as Earth System Modelling, to get a comprehensive understanding of the geological, climatological and oceanographic evolution of the Arctic Ocean.

WP4: Development and testing of new technology and procedures for Arctic geoscience operations

Work package leaders: Asgeir J. Sørensen (NTNU), Rolf B. Pedersen (UiB)
Contributions from: Tore Aunaas (SINTEF), Jørgen Berge (UiT), Kay Fjørtoft (SINTEF), Alfred Hanssen (UiT), Tor Arne Johansen (UiB), Geir Johnsen (NTNU), Alf G. Melbye (SINTEF), Martin Ludvigsen (NTNU), Sveinung Løset (NTNU), Roger Skjetne (NTNU)

The research will address development and testing of technology for the scientific missions of GoNorth, as well as support the field operations. The technology platform used will operate in an extreme environment in terms of temperature, weather depth and under ice operation.

The main tasks are:

  • Task 4.1: Ship operations in Arctic areas
  • Task 4.2: Underwater operations
  • Task 4.3: Well integrity and control
  • Task 4.4: Communication and navigation
  • Task 4.5. Environment
  • Task 4.6. Geophysical surveying methods
  • Task 4.7. Data management

The work package is supported by scientists in research groups from UiT, NTNU, SINTEF and UiB. The group has world-leading scientific track records and extensive operational experience with ship and underwater operations in northern areas including Arctic. The infrastructure includes ships, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), landers and sensors.


Operation of ships and equipment in the Arctic is challenging with respect to low temperature, ice, harsh weather with low visibility, remoteness, etc. The logistics is complex and costly. The base for the operation will be ice-going ships with appropriate ice class and/or supported by icebreakers. Operating in ice set strict requirements to the ship capabilities and systems for launch and recovery of equipment (Moonpool/Crane over board). The GoNorth underwater operations will involve the use of remotely and autonomously operated vehicles (ROV and AUV). Guidance, navigation and control of underwater vehicles are demanding. HSE as well as appropriate procedures for any rescue operation of human and equipment must be thoroughly planned and trained for. Besides, the environmental footprint should be kept to a minimum. The work package also includes methods and infrastructure for data analyses and data management.

Main objectives

Develop methodology and technology including test procedures for safe and efficient operation of ships and underwater equipment for seabed mapping and prospecting, including seismic, sampling and well testing in the Arctic. Different sites and procedures for testing and qualification of ROVs, AUVs and sensors systems will be developed at the premises at UiB (Bergen), NTNU/SINTEF (Trondheim) and UNIS (Svalbard). The testing and qualification will be performed in steps by dedicated tasks as well as embedded in other on-going field campaigns.

WP5: Observations of the Arctic Ocean water column and sea ice cover

Work package leaders: Hanne Sagen (NERSC), Arild Sundfjord (NPI)
Contributions from: Sebastian Gerland (NPI), Dmitry Divine (NPI), Torill Hamre (NERSC), Helene Langehaug (NERSC), Espen Storheim (NERSC), Stein Sandven (NERSC), Lars H. Smedsrud (UiB), Børge Hamre (UiB), Tom Rune Lauknes (NORCE), Rune Storvold (NORCE)

The Arctic Ocean is connected to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Fram Strait, Barents Sea and the Bering Strait. The pathways of the water masses are well known, but the central Arctic, in particular the Eurasian Basin, is among the poorest observed oceans in the world. Correspondingly, the physical, biogeochemical, and biological processes in the water column under the sea ice are poorly understood. In situ measurement of the sea ice and ocean are needed to document, understand and better predict the changes in Arctic on different temporal and spatial scales.

Main objective of WP5 is to contribute to and support the development and implementation of a pilot for a year-round multi-disciplinary observing system to collect essential ocean variables (EOV) including subsurface ocean temperature (mean temperature and point measurements), acidification, sea level, sea ice thickness, biological parameters, vocalizing marine life, ocean sound, as well as geophysical hazardous events (e.g. earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis). Improved and sustained observations will foster a cascade of new research programs as well as following up and complementing international observation-based research programs. GoNorth – WP 5 will be a contribution to the UN declared decade of the Oceans to achieve the sustainability goal number 14: ‘Conserve and sustainably use the ocean, seas and marine resources for sustainable development’.

WP6: The Arctic Ocean and the marine ecosystem under change

Work package leaders: Sabine Cochrane (Apn), Malin Daase (UiT), Stig Falk-Petersen (Apn)
Contributions from: Asgeir Sørensen (NTNU), Geir Johnsen (NTNU), Lionel Camus (Apn), Jørgen Berge (UiT), Slawomir Sagan (IOPAS), Jan Marcin Weslawski (IOPAS).

Life in all oceans begins with the availability of light and nutrients, which start the primary production. In the high Arctic, sunlight returns after the polar night in February–March and with the spring equinox in March the days are longer than further south. However, sea ice and snow cover prevent its penetration into the water until ice-breakup and melting, which can occur as late as August – September.

The main objective of WP6 is to study the “Blue Arctic” era into which we are rapidly entering, which will show a markedly different dynamic, where thinning and retreating ice-cover allows light to meet open water and trigger spring production months earlier than previously. The changes in light, nutrients, productivity and ice cover likely will be most pronounced at the shelf-break, continental margins and along the ice edge in the Arctic basin. Off-shelf winds promote upwelling of nutrient rich water and increased shelf basin exchange.

WP7: Geopolitics in the High Arctic

Work package leader: Elana Rowe (NUPI)

GoNorth is a natural science project, but the work planned speaks in several ways to the strengths of researchers of geopolitics. NUPI has a longstanding interest in how scientific efforts to map and understand Norwegian territories figure into the assertion of state sovereignty and into Norwegian foreign policy traditions and practices more broadly. NUPI researchers have worked on this topic of how scientific knowledge translates into political power for Norway from both historical and contemporary perspectives.

Several NUPI researchers have done studies on how Norwegian science and political efforts in the Arctic are perceived and interpreted, particularly by Russia. Analysis of the geopolitical context for and spin-offs from the GoNorth project would add a significant dimension to the project’s outcomes.

Main objective of WP7 is to understand how the science-policy interface works in global governance and in Norway specifically. The GoNorth project may offer opportunity to do some reflexive research on how the ongoing outputs of the project are received by policymakers.