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International Ocean Discovery Program
Expedition 377 Scientific Prospectus

Arctic Ocean Paleoceanography (ArcOP) 1

Toward a Continuous Cenozoic Record
from a Greenhouse to an Icehouse Earth

Ruediger (Rudy) Stein

Co-Chief Scientist


Center for Marine Environmental Sciences

University of Bremen


Kristen St. John

Co-Chief Scientist

Department of Geology and Environmental Science

James Madison University


Jeremy (Jez) Everest

Expedition Project Manager/Staff Scientist

British Geological Survey

The Lyell Centre

United Kingdom

Published August 2021

See the full publication in PDF.


Prior to 2004, geological sampling in the Arctic Ocean was mainly restricted to near-surface Quaternary sediments. Thus, the long-term pre-Quaternary geological history is still poorly known. With the successful completion of the Arctic Coring Expedition (ACEX) (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Expedition 302) in 2004, a new era in Arctic research began. Employing a novel multivessel approach, the first mission-specific platform (MSP) expedition of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program proved that drilling in permanently ice-covered regions is possible. During ACEX, 428 m of Quaternary, Neogene, Paleogene, and Campanian sediment on Lomonosov Ridge were penetrated, providing new and unique insights into Cenozoic Arctic paleoceanographic and climate history. Although it was highly successful, ACEX also had three important limitations. The ACEX sequence contains either a large hiatus spanning the time interval from late Eocene to middle Miocene (based on the original biostratigraphic age model) or an interval of strongly reduced sedimentation rates (based on a more recent Os-Re-isotope-based age model). This is a critical time interval, spanning the time when prominent changes in global climate took place during the transition from the early Cenozoic Greenhouse Earth to the late Cenozoic Icehouse Earth. Furthermore, generally poor recovery during ACEX prevented detailed and continuous reconstruction of Cenozoic climate history. Finally, a higher-resolution reconstruction of Arctic rapid climate change during Neogene and Pleistocene times could not be achieved during ACEX. Therefore, Expedition 377 (Arctic Ocean Paleoceanography [ArcOP]) will return to the Lomonosov Ridge for a second MSP-type drilling campaign with the International Ocean Discovery Program to fill these major gaps in our knowledge on Arctic Ocean paleoenvironmental history through Cenozoic times and its relationship to global climate history.

The overall goal of this drilling campaign is to recover a complete stratigraphic sedimentary record of the southern Lomonosov Ridge to meet our highest priority paleoceanographic objective, the continuous long-term Cenozoic climate history of the central Arctic Ocean. Furthermore, sedimentation rates two to four times higher than those of ACEX permit higher-resolution studies of Arctic climate change. The expedition goal can be achieved through careful site selection, the use of appropriate drilling technology and ice management, and by applying multiproxy approaches to paleoceanographic, paleoclimatic, and age-model reconstructions. The expedition will complete one primary deep drill hole (proposed Site LR-11B) to 900 meters below seafloor (mbsf), supplemented by a short drill site (LR-10B) to 50 mbsf, to recover an undisturbed uppermost (Quaternary) sedimentary section. This plan should ensure complete recovery so scientists can construct a composite section that spans the full age range through the Cenozoic.

1Stein, R., St. John, K., and Everest, J., 2021. Expedition 377 Scientific Prospectus: Arctic Ocean Paleoceanography (ArcOP). International Ocean Discovery Program.

This work is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.