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Operation Air: NILU exhibition on climate research in the Arctic and Antarctic

Foto: Ingunn Trones, NILU

On Monday 14 February, Minister of Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide opened NILU’s guest exhibition in the Climate House at Oslo’s Natural History Museum. The exhibition is about climate research in the Arctic and Antarctic, and one of the goals is to make more young people want to become climate scientists.

The exhibition is open to the public but will also be experienced by school classes who visit the Climate House. It is expected that more than 300 school classes will visit the Climate House during 2022.

Operation Air

In the exhibition «Operation Air: Climate research in the Arctic and Antarctic» you get to visit two of the Norwegian atmospheric observatories: Zeppelin on Svalbard and Trollhaugen in Dronning Maud Land. Air samples from there help to form the data base that is presented in climate reports, in the media – and at school.

“At NILU, we are specialists in climate and environmental monitoring in polar regions”, says senior scientist Cathrine Lund Myhre. “The air samples we take at the observatories in the Arctic and Antarctic allow us to both monitor the composition of the atmosphere, capture changes and decide whether climate measures work. The air samples can also give us answers to what causes climate change to happen.”

To be able to monitor changes in the atmosphere, the observatories must be far from where most people live. Some of the observatories that are best located – that is, farthest from people – are Mauna Loa in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Zeppelin in the Arctic and Trollhaugen in the Antarctic.

NILU scientists Cathrine Lund Myhre and Chris Lunder gave Espen Barth Eide, Minister of Climate and Environment, a tour of the new exhibition. Photo: Ingunn Trones, NILU

Greenhouse gas record 20 years in a row

In December 2021, the last annual report for greenhouse gas monitoring in Norway was presented. It concludes that the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere over the Arctic reached new record levels for the 20th year in a row.

This increase occurred despite worldwide shutdowns related to Covid-19. The shutdowns led to us burning about 5.6 per cent less fossil fuel in 2020. Most of the decline came from reductions in the transport sector. Nevertheless, CO2 levels in the atmosphere still rose.

“If you compare the global CO2 development with the CO2 development in the atmosphere over the Arctic, the average level in the north is higher,” says Lund Myhre. “There are several reasons for this, but the most important is that there are more people living in the northern hemisphere than in the southern. That is also why we have higher greenhouse gas emissions in the northern hemisphere. The emissions are mixed into the atmosphere and carried by the air currents northwards, eventually ending up in the Arctic. Thus, the effect on the ecosystems is greater there.

The Nordic region’s only climate house

The Climate House is Oslo’s – and the Nordic countries’ – only house dedicated to disseminating climate and climate change. During 2022, they will teach more than 9,000 Oslo youth about climate and climate change.

Brita Slettemark is the leader of Klimahuset.

“We have generally emphasized interactivity in our exhibitions. For us, it is important to create curiosity about the topic, and in 2022 we will present climate research with special emphasis on the Arctic. If we can help inspire young people to develop their own opinions and participate in discussions about climate and the environment, we have succeeded,” she says.

Senior scientist Cathrine Lund Myhre told the Minister of Climate and the Environment about international research collaboration and data centers. Photo: Ingunn Trones, NILU

Become a climate scientist!

One of the goals of NILU’s new guest exhibition is to get more young people to consider climate research as a career path.

“Many of our scientists and engineers alternate between sitting in an office and working in the field,” says Christine Forsetlund Solbakken. She is head of communications at NILU and project manager for the exhibition.

“We would like to show that regardless of whether you prefer math or like to tinker with things, climate research can be a career for you.”

NILUs utstilling i Klimahuset
NILU’s exhibition in the Climate House at the Natural History Museum in Oslo is on display through December of 2022. Photo: Christine F. Solbakken, NILU