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Great progress for research activities at Ny-Ålesund

Foto: Kjetil Tørseth, NILU

From 25-26 October 2011, an international group of 70 scientists met at Lillestrøm Centre of Expertise for the 10th Ny-Ålesund seminar, hosted by NILU.

‘The outcome of this seminar shows that both quality and quantity of the research at Ny-Ålesund have increased considerably during the last years’, says Kerstin Stebel from NILU.

The interdisciplinary meeting gathered experts with a background in Chemistry, Geology, Marine Biology, Meteorology and Physics – to mention a few. They had one thing in common: Ny-Ålesund, one of the four permanent settlements of Svalbard as research base, an environment offering excellent opportunities to study the effects of climate change and environmental pollutants in the Arctic.

‘The Ny-Ålesund seminar demonstrated that research at Svalbard is essential to receive more information on environmental burdens and the effects of climate change in the Arctic’, says Kerstin Stebel. ‘It is very encouraging to see how open the scientists are towards cooperating both within their own area of expertise and inter-disciplinary’, she adds.

According to Kim Holmén, international director at the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), the meaning of Ny-Ålesund as global surveillance station has never been more important than now. ‘The seminar has been dominated by scientists from the field of atmospheric research, and progress has been made with regard to vertical mixing of airmass and its relevance for Ny-Ålesund and Zeppelin’, says Holmén. He also points to the fact that there has been progress in the field of biology with for example the development of new methods in genetics.

Ny-Ålesund experiences an increased interest from both scientists and tourists. The scientists at the seminar have been very much fond of keeping the observatory as a mostly untouched and preserved area in the Arctic. ‘This is of big importance for the ongoing research here’, says Kim Holmén.

Significance of research coordination

Improved cooperation and coordination of the steadily increasing number of activities within atmospheric research at Svalbard has been formulated as important aim by the atmospheric scientists at the seminar. One example in this direction is CICCI – Cooperative Investigation of Climate-Cryosphere Interaction. This initiative has been established to coordinate research activities with regard to improvement of knowledge about processes that control the distribution of soot in the Arctic atmosphere, deposition of snow and ice and the subsequent influence on climate.

Ny-Ålesund is also an established model point within SIOS – Svalbard Integrated Earth Observing System. The infrastructure project has the aim to establish an Arctic earth observation system and to integrate observation within geophysical, chemical and biological processes from all research and observation at Svalbard. This was the reason for the Norwegian Space Centre to participate in the seminar. They are amongst others interested in validating future satellites and algorithms with in-situ data.

Organising the research

Six institutes under the direction of the Norwegian Research Council form the board of the Svalbard Science Forum (SSF) that is coordinating and promoting the increasing number of international research activities at Svalbard. Four so called flagship programs were launched in 2008 to promote research activities at Ny-Ålesund:

1. Kongsfjord System Flagship
2. Atmospheric Research Flagship
3. Terrestrial System Flagship
4. Glaciology Flagship

The flagship programs serve as umbrella organisation for research activities in four different research areas specifically related to the Arctic: marine water, atmosphere, land and glaciers, all of which were discussed at the seminar. The presentations show that there are more and more new research groups established at Svalbard that wish to cooperate and coordinate with the research at Ny-Ålesund.
The performance of the 10th Ny-Ålesund seminar has been supported by the Norwegian Research Council. This made it amongst others possible to invite PhD students and young researchers to participate.

Contact information
Kerstin Stebel, senior scientist NILU, email kst@nilu.no
Kim Holmén, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute, email kim.holmen@npolar.no
Anne Nyeggen, head of communications NILU, 90776232, any@nilu.no