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Russia’s war limits ability to track Arctic climate

Published: 5th Apr, 2024

Context

Russia’s war in Ukraine and the resulting halt to western collaboration with Russia, now stifles climate research in the Arctic to such an extent that it may soon be impossible for scientists to predict future climate change in the Arctic, which would also weaken predictions of climate change in the rest of the world.

1: Dimension- Impact of the loss of data

  • No data for mitigation: With this, the ability to initiate well-informed management and conservation efforts, which would help mitigate some of the negative consequences and risks exposed by climate change, are greatly reduced.
  • Increased uncertainty: The lack of insight into this particular section of the Arctic will almost double the statistical uncertainty of central parts of Arctic climate research.
  • Negative impact of established research: It affects eight key components of the so called Earth System Models, where years of observations of temperatures, rain and snowfall are combined with factors such as carbon exchange between plants and atmosphere and emissions of CO2.
  • Loss of insight into emission: It leads to the loss of insight into emissions of CO2 and methane from the permafrost in Siberia.
    • The thaw of the permafrost may cause CO2 and methane to develop and escape from layers of up to 90 meters of frozen biomass consisting of decomposed dead plants and animals, much of which has been frozen since the latest ice-ages.
    • The scientists call this biomass yedoma; a Russian term as Russia is the epicenter of this phenomena.

2: Dimension- The Ticking Bomb

  • Russia accounts for almost half the land in the Arctic and several of the ecosystems in this part of the Arctic are unique. Arctic hold some 1700 gigaton of CO2 or about double the amount already present in the atmosphere.
  • Global temperatures are rising, but temperatures in the Arctic region are rising even faster.
  • The melting permafrost and rising sea-levels can have devastating effects on local ecosystems as well as the climate.

Fact Box

  • Location of Research Station
  • Nearly one third of the 60 stations they selected were located in Russia, and all were above 59 degrees north latitude, just below Greenland’s southern tip. 
  • Half of the research stations in Russia are in the boreal zone. The boreal forest uptakes a substantial amount of carbon, carbon that is accumulated as biomass and soil organic carbon.
  • The researchers excluded stations located on Greenland’s ice sheet, however, because it is not a typical terrestrial ecosystem.
  • India has had a research base in the Arctic since 2008 and also has two observatories in the region.
  • The country presently has a single station, Himadri, in Ny-Alesund, Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, where research personnel are usually present for 180 days.
  • Before the war, 21 Russian research stations shared their data with the international consortium INTERACT.
  • INTERACT is a scientific collaboration between the eight Arctic countries.
  • Arctic region
  • The region surrounding the North Pole consists of a large ocean surrounded by land.
  • This ocean, called the Arctic Ocean, is like no other ocean on Earth; and because of its special location and climate, the lands that surround it are unique.
  • The Arctic region covers parts of eight countries: Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the United States.

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