October 1, 2017 marks the ten-year anniversary since the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) research aircraft Polar 5 began service. In that time, the Basler BT-67 has flown more than 1.3 million kilometres to fulfil essential scientific and logistical duties. In the course of 48 measuring campaigns, predominantly for atmospheric research and geophysics purposes, the airplane has landed on the Arctic sea ice near the North Pole, and at the South Pole.
The most advanced space weather radar in the world is to be built in the Arctic by an international partnership including the UK, thanks to new investment, including in the region of £4 to £6m from NERC. The EISCAT_3D radar will provide UK scientists with a cutting-edge tool to probe the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space, helping them understand the effects of space weather storms on technology, society and the environment.
According to researchers at Aalto University, by using suitable systems, more than 80% of heating energy for Finnish households could be produced using solar energy. As the price of heating energy obtained from solar heating systems needed to be competitive with the currently used heating alternatives, calculations made by researchers showed that renewable energy could be used to cover 53-81% of annual domestic heating energy consumption depending on the technical implementation method.
It is said that economics and ecology seldom go hand in hand. However, Norwegian entrepreneur Kjell Inge Røkke and his family present a perfect example to prove the general opinion wrong. Røkke has revealed plans for a brand new ice-strengthened research expedition vessel REV which will be built in cooperation with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). According to the plans, the yet unnamed ship will be ready in 2020 to set sail.
Nuclear submarines in the Arctic always have been a military issue, especially during the Cold War Ear and now with the increasing militarization of Arctic nations. However, there also is a peaceful and scientific utilization of this technique possible, according to Russian engineers. Surprisingly, the Design Bureau that came up with the idea of civilian nuclear submarines is the same that had designed all Russian military subs.
The energy supply to Longyearbyen, midway between continental Norway and the North Pole, is a hot topic in the climate debate. Longyearbyen is the largest settlement and the administrative centre of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean. Today, Longyearbyen obtains its electric power and district heating from its coal power plant, the only one in Norway. However, Scandinavia’s largest think tank has estimated that Svalbard’s future could be green and sustainable.
One of the major problems in the Arctic is nuclear waste from submarines, ice breakers and other nuclear powered vessels and stations. These legacies of the past Cold War era are still looming. Storage and treatment are cost-intensive and technically difficult. However, in Saida Bay near Murmansk, a brand-new radioactive waste treatment and storage plant is a brilliant example and symbol of what is possible if east and west invest into cooperation instead of arms race. Now, Murmansk governor Marina Kovtun has invited Russian president Vladimir Putin to visit the complex.
Pevek, a small Russian town near the Bering Strait above the Arctic Circle, will get the world’s first floating nuclear power plant. Construction of infrastructure has started in the beginning of October with a ceremony that put the first pile into Pevek’s waterfront.
Today, maintaining communications coverage north of Svalbard is a great challenge, but a new Norwegian research project promises a groundbreaking solution for far-north Arctic areas.
On the current Polarstern expedition, scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute have deployed a multicopter with a high-resolution camera to quantify marine litter floating on the sea surface. The deep-sea researchers had recorded a marked increase of man-made litter on the Arctic seafloor over the last ten years. That was the reason to now start the programme for the quantitative analysis of waste-entry on the sea surface.