From the DNA of ancient diseases frozen in the permafrost to the relationship between global warming and the scramble to access vast oil deposits under the Arctic - in January Horizon looks at science that is taking researchers out onto the ice.
We hear from Dr Marc von Hobe, coordinator of the EU-funded RECONCILE project, which helped with the first ever detection of a hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic. He argues that more work needs to be done to control greenhouse gas emissions.
Horizon also talks to the scientists aiming to set up a European Arctic observing network in Svalbard, an island halfway between the north of Norway and the North Pole.
As temperatures rise in the Arctic, permafrost, or frozen ground, is thawing. As it does, greenhouse gases trapped within it are being released into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide and methane, leading to previously underestimated problems with ocean acidification and potential mercury poisoning.
Studies of ice melt in the Arctic suggest that the world may have a fighting chance of preventing huge sea level changes that would result from the dramatic collapse of the vast ice sheets that cover Greenland, but that more work is needed to understand the wider effects.
As the northern route opens, the melting ice will have a significant impact on the transportation of goods around the world, and the consequences are manifold, said Didier Schmitt, a scientific adviser at the European Commission.
The Nordic Orion became the first cargo ship to take the treacherous Northwest Passage from the Pacific Ocean to Europe last year, and now its Danish operators are planning more trips across the Arctic as the sea ice melts.
If no new policy measures are adopted to combat global warming, the cost of climate change in Europe could reach almost 4 % of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the European Union by the end of the century.
The big freeze in the US was part of an Arctic weather system that is being displaced more and more frequently because of global warming, European researchers believe. As it re-centres itself over the pole, it should bring colder, icier conditions back to Europe.
The world looks very different from this time last year. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the centrality of science, research and innovation, accelerated some changes already in the works, but also exposed our weaknesses. In September, Horizon looks at how the pandemic is reshaping Europe in areas including health research, work, tech, transport and food – and how research can contribute to Europe’s recovery over the coming years. We will also be covering the European Research & Innovation Days at the end of the month, which will bring together scientists, policymakers, entrepreneurs and citizens to debate how research and innovation can ensure that the transition to a post-coronavirus society is sustainable, inclusive and resilient.
In August, Horizon looks at one of the features that makes Earth unique and habitable: plate tectonics. We explore what we know – and still don’t know – about how the shifting plates beneath our feet shape our planet. We speak to researcher Dr Kate Rychert, who wants to understand what makes a plate plate-like, and delve into one of the outstanding mysteries in the subject – how and why plate tectonics began. We find out about the link between mountain formation, erosion and climate change, and we look at what moonquakes and marsquakes can reveal about tectonic activity elsewhere.
Leuven, Belgium, has been named the 2020 European Capital of Innovation for its use of innovation to improve residents’ lives.
The world’s pressing need is a vaccine to fight the current threat of Covid-19, but ultimately we may be able to develop a pan-coronavirus vaccine, Sunetra Gupta, a professor of theoretical epidemiology at the University of Oxford, UK, said at the European Commission’s annual research event.
'Frontier research' scientists share how they are fighting Covid-19.
The Belgian city won the €1 million iCapital cash prize, while runner-up prizes went to Cluj-Napoca, Espoo, Helsingborg, Vienna and Valencia.
Dr Kate Rychert studies ocean plate structures.