Thawing permafrost and collapsing methane hydrates, a.k.a the “sleeping giants” of the global carbon cycle, in the Siberian Arctic coastal regions can trigger the release of climate-warming gases. This autumn, twelve researchers from the Department of Environmental Science will join Swedish-Russian expedition ISSS-2020 onboard the Russian vessel Akademik Keldysh to look for answers to some of the most pressing questions in climate research to date.

One of the greatest uncertainties surrounding climate warming is how the emission of naturally accurring greenhouse gases, such as methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide (N2O), from Arctic thawing permafrost and collapsing methane hydrates – crystals made of methane gas molecules “caged” between solid water molecules – in the seabed north of Siberia will increase in the future.

” Climate warming is awakening the “sleeping giants” of the carbon cycle, namely permafrost and methane hydrates. How much this will lead to added emissions of the strong greenhouse gas methane is poorly understood. This is one of the grand challenges in current climate change research and a central goal of the expedition to address,” says Örjan Gustafsson, Professor at the Department of Environmental Science and leader of ISSS-2020 expedition.

Nitrous oxide (N2O) is another strong greenhouse gas whose effects on climate have not been adequately studied in the Arctic. Scientists now suspect that N2O, like methane, is being released from thawing permafrost. Birgit Wild is Assistant Professor at the Department of Environmental Science and leader of the work group that will study N2O during ISSS-2020.

“Increased greenhouse gas emissions from permafrost and methane hydrates reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that can be allowed to be emitted from our society if we are to meet the climate targets that are set to avoid large-scale climate impacts,” says Wild.

About the International Siberian Shelf Study (ISSS) and ISSS-2020 expedition

Over the past 15 years, Russian and Swedish scientists have worked closely together to understand the processes that govern climate change in the Arctic within the framework of The International Siberian Shelf Study (ISSS). As a result of this collaboration, several expeditions in the Arctic have taken place during this period, on both Russian and Swedish research vessels.

This autumn, the Russian vessel Akademik Keldysh will set sail from Archangelsk in northwestern Russia on 26 September 2020 carrying the ISSS-2020 team from Stockholm University and colleagues for a six-week research cruise along the East Siberian Arctic Ocean.

Overview of the route during ISSS-2020

ISSS-2020 is made up of ten research programmes with the common goal of better understanding how large and hard-to-reach Arctic systems are structured and how they function so that scientists can make evidence-based predictions about how greenhouse gas emissions from these regions will increase in the coming decades. The research vessel r/v Akademik Keldysh is run by the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology (Russian Academy of Sciences). The ship is among other things known for being used in the underwater scenes of James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic.

Twelve  participants from Stockholm University (Department of Environmental Science)


Felipe Matsubara, PhD student


Celine Lett, technical personell


Inna Nybom, Guest Researcher/Post-Doc


Alyssa Azaroff, Post-Doc


Weichao Wu, Guest Researcheer


Jannik Martens, PhD student


Birgit Wild, Assistant Professor and ISSS-2020 Deputy Leader


Nicholas Ray, Guest Researcher


Henry Holmstrand, Researcher


Amelia Davies, Researcher

Elena Kirillova, Research Assistant


Örjan Gustafsson, Professor and ISSS-2020 Leader


Information about the expedition, including blog posts and videos from the ship:




Contact information

Visiting addresses:

Geovetenskapens Hus,
Svante Arrhenius väg 8, Stockholm

Arrheniuslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 16, Stockholm (Unit for Toxicological Chemistry)

Mailing address:
Department of Environmental Science
Stockholm University
106 91 Stockholm

Press enquiries should be directed to:

Stella Papadopoulou
Science Communicator
Phone +46 (0)8 674 70 11