A new research programme to achieve an improved understanding of the Earth system for the Baltic Sea region

A new international and interdisciplinary research programme, Baltic Earth, is launched. The aim of Baltic Earth is to achieve an improved understanding of the Earth system for the Baltic Sea region, focusing on physical and biogeochemical processes which interact in the atmosphere, in the sea including sea ice, and on land. Human interactions with the environment are recognized as an important part of the regional Earth system.

What determines the salinity dynamics in the Baltic Sea? What are the biogeochemical fluxes and feedbacks between the land and the sea? How can we predict extreme events like floods in the Baltic Sea region? What are the sea level dynamics in the Baltic Sea? What are the human impacts on the environment and how do they change the regional Earth system?

These are some core research questions, so called Grand Challenges, already identified for Baltic Earth. In order to tackle these questions, the new programme will combine an analysis of observations, multi-model systems and various outreach activities.

Knowledge about environmental processes in the Baltic Sea region is a prerequisite to understand and assess human impacts, and is crucial for the development of abatement strategies to meet the on-going and projected climate change.

Baltic Earth will play an active role towards involving decision makers, for instance in cooperation with HELCOM, the intergovernmental Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission and other stakeholders.

Baltic Earth will succeed the successful BALTEX programme which has been working towards an improved understanding of the water, energy, nutrient and carbon cycles in the light of climate change for the past 20 years. Like BALTEX, it will be a network of scientists and institutions in the Baltic Sea region, working together to tackle common research questions.

Outreach and education important parts of the programme

Following BALTEX strategies, Baltic Earth will organize working group meetings, scientific workshops and study conferences with dedicated stakeholder involvements. Another important task will be to the production of scientific assessments of important scientific questions, identifying knowledge gaps and supporting the definition of new Grand Challenges for research. For instance, the BALTEX Assessment of Climate Change in the Baltic Sea Basin (BACC) has been an important effort and service to society. Such activities will be continued in the new programme.

An interdisciplinary discussion across borders and communication with stakeholders and the public about scientific questions and results will be important outreach aspects. Summer schools shall be organized on a regular basis as a contribution to a comprehensive education in Earth system sciences in order to support a new generation of researchers for which interdisciplinary work is natural.

The research programme is led by an interim steering group chaired by Markus Meier, Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute. Researchers from all countries surrounding the Baltic Sea will be part of the network.

7th Study Conference on BALTEX

The BALTEX programme has served as a successful scientific network in the Baltic Sea region for 20 years. These years have seen great changes in terms of social and political developments. Throughout this time, BALTEX has remained a focal point for regional climate and environmental research.

Achievements of 20 years of BALTEX research comprise the implementation of international observational databases, the development of coupled atmosphere-ocean-biogeochemical models, the assimilation of observations into numerical models, and outreach activities across country and discipline borders.

The 7th Study Conference on BALTEX will summarize 20 years of interdisciplinary BALTEX research in the Baltic Sea region and will present perspectives for future research. The conference title is two-fold: “Changes in energy, water and matter cycles” summarizes the scope of BALTEX research in the last 20 years; “Building regional Earth System knowledge” stands for the scientific vision of the new programme, which will inherit and further develop the BALTEX research network and scientific legacy.