Photo credits : oceaneye - manta trawl and microplastic samples

The passive igloo - a sailboat dedicated to science

The passive igloo offers accomodation to master students, doctoral students and researchers motivated by an interest and passion towards research in the Arctic regions, whether sailing in the summer or during Arctic winter where the vessel is stationary in the ice.

Partners : Météo-France, Oceaneye, Ifremer, University of Brest, University Savoie Mont Blanc. Topics of study cover weather, climate, biodiversity and pollution of the oceans. The passive igloo is also involved in Isaaffik, a new gateway connecting Arctic research, education, consultancy and logistics.

Scientific agenda

The passive igloo participates in different scientific collaborations. This page is intended to serve as a platform for information on completed or ongoing activities. For more information, please get in touch.

Weather : Météo-France

In order to improve the quantity and quality of atmospheric data collected from across the globe, scientists seek to maximize the number of measurements, especially at sea. These data include improving weather forecasts and safety at sea.

Deployment of SVP drifeter buoys, Nanuq Greenland 2015 (photos Alain Berthoud)

"SVP drifter data buoys" collect and transmit data via satellite:

  • air pressure
  • sea surface temperature
  • speed and direction of surface currents
  • the CTG waves
  • wind speed

The goal is to deploy additional drifting weather buoys on different areas during the trip. In parallel, the boat will be equipped with an integrated weather station that will provide a complete data set at each full hour via Iridium SBD. These data can be viewed in near real time.

Chart : air pressure observations over the sea surface in November 2013, red dots = drifting buoys, source EUMETNET

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Arctic micro-plastics : Ifremer / Oceaneye

Carte : modèle de prédiction numérique de concentration de débris plastiques flottants. Source: Maximenko et al. (2012)

Five huge waste zones about the size of a country float on the ocean surface. They are called the seventh continents or waste patches, accumulation areas. They are mainly composed of small plastic debris from fragmentation of waste. The cause of their existence is human pollution that is transported by ocean currents. This phenomena is now no longer a hypothesis but a scientific certainty.

The objective is to determine the quantity of plastic contained in the sea water along the voyage.

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Maritime microorganisms : University of Brest

Niskin bottle and work in progress on board, Nanuq Greenland 2015 (photos Sylvie Margot)

a) Diversity of microorganisms:

The structure, function and biodiversity of Arctic marine ecosystems are influenced by several key factors and are very well adapted to the extreme conditions of their environment. However, impacts of climate change on Arctic ecosystems are expected to be very strong and more rapid than any other biome on earth. As phytoplankton is the basis of many food webs, it is absolutely crucial to study their spatial distribution and diversity. Moreover, there are concerns that the nature of algae blooms in the Arctic could be modified, especially due to the sea- ice retreat, or ocean acidification. It is proposed to investigate phytoplanktonic diversity by sampling regularly along the cruise line, with an emphasis around the coast of Greenland.

b) Macronutrients (nitrates, phosphates and silicates)

In the Arctic, important shifts in nutrient availability took place in recent years. As a result, significant changes in primary production of Arctic Ocean waters occurred. As complementary measurements to microorganisms diversity, nutrient distribution will be investigated along Nanuq voyage, with a focus on total dissolved inorganic nitrogen, phosphorus and silicon.

c) Trace Elements

Phytoplankton growth requires carbon, light and macronutrients). In addition, trace elements play a key role : some are essential for living organisms (e.g Fe, Mn , Cu, Ni , Zn , Co), while others are toxic (eg Pb and Hg). The structure, function and biodiversity of marine Arctic ecosystems may be affected by any bioavailability variation of these trace elements. Their distribution is tightly linked to the variation of their inputs, such as sea-ice or melting glaciers.

The goal is to quantify some trace elements (total dissolved mercury and particulate Fe, Mn, Al) in different areas along the voyage, with an emphasis around Greenland

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PCB's : University Savoie Mont-Blanc

Laboratoire Chimie Moléculaire et Environnement (LCME)

S etup of passive absorbers (water - left; air - right), Nanuq Iceland 2015 (photos Alain Berthoud)

a) PCBs in water

b) PCBs and PAHs in air

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Energy : The passive igloo project

The 'passive igloo' is the cabin of a 60' polar expedition sailboat. The design is inspired by concepts and techniques used in low-energy high performance buildings.

The aim is to pass through an arctic winter in a self-sufficient way and without the use of non-renewable energy in order to explore how simple and robust constructive and technical solutions may to challenge low-cost energy scarcity in a credible way. Transposed to temperate climates, the experience feedback will be useful to outline the habitat of tomorrow.

The real passive igloo - end of winter, Nanuq Greenland 2016 (photo Peter Gallinelli)

Measured variables:

  • indoor air temperature: living area (floor, ambient, ceiling), cabins, buffer zone
  • inner and outer surface temperatures and heat flux trough the thermal envelope of the igloo
  • indoor air quality : relative humidity and CO2 levels
  • air change rate
  • energy produced, consumed
  • occupancy rate, activities
  • external environment: temperature, relative humidity, solar radiation, wind speed

Scientific purpose : to observe and describe the comfort/energy ratio, document comfort and hygrothermal operation and establish a detailed energy balance.

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frédéric gillet & peter.gallinelli October 2017