Sunday, May 26, 2013

Arctic abandonment

The Russians have a tradition dating back to 1937 of establishing year-round research stations on drifting pack ice in the Arctic to study oceanology, meteorology, geophysics, hydrochemistry, hydrophysics, and marine biology. The 40th Arctic research station went into operation in October of last year, was fully staffed only a month ago, and was supposed to last until September, but the ice is disintegrating at an alarming rate. Due to the rapidly changing climate conditions, the country's environment ministry has ordered the urgent evacuation of the 16 researchers in residence. “It’s a huge loss for us, and for science,” says the expedition's director Vladimir Sokolov. Viktor Boyarsky, former polar explorer and current director of the Russian State Museum of the Arctic and Antarctic, concludes, "It's getting harder and harder to find a proper block of ice to sustain one of these stations. There are fewer suitable ice locations, and they are much more mobile than in the past....We'll go on sending these expeditions, but it's going to be much more costly. The best idea is to have a station that lasts for two or three years, but that's probably a thing of the past."

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