High-resolution depositional archives were identified in the contourite drifts developed on the mid-upper slope of the western continental margin of Svalbard (Bellsund and Isfjorden drifts, Vestnesa and Svyatogor ridges) under the persistent effect of the West Spitsbergen Current (WSC). The sediment drifts contain very similar stratigraphic sequences characterised by depositional marker beds (Heinrich-like and meltwater related deposits) outlining a synchronous, almost simultaneous response of the Svalbard-Barents Sea paleo-ice sheet to changing climatic conditions.
These observations strengthened the idea that the WSC, transporting warm Atlantic Waters to the Arctic, was one of the major drivers of the Arctic climate variability and cryosphere evolution in the area. The above considerations inspired the writing of Proposal IODP 985-Full2 that was motivated by the necessity of retrieving continuous, high-resolution, and datable depositional sequences containing the record of the palaeoceanographic characteristics and cryosphere evolution during the past climatic transitions that followed the opening of the Fram Strait in the Arctic. Such data are greatly needed to better constrain global climate connections, forcing mechanisms and climate models. The general objective of 985-Full2 is the reconstruction of the variability of the WSC and its influence on climate changes particularly during key climate transitions (i.e. the late Miocene–Pliocene transition, late Pliocene–Pleistocene Transition, Mid-Pleistocene Transition, Mid-Brunhes Transition, and sub-orbital Heinrich-like events), its impact on the Arctic glaciations, ice shelves development and stability, and sea ice distribution over last 5.3 Ma. The proposal submitted in April 2020 was approved in May 2022 and scheduled as IODP Exp. 403 (June 4th to August 2nd, 2024).