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POLARIN: Unique network for polar research infrastructures

Trollhaugen / Zeppelin. Foto: NILU

For the first time, scientists will have access to research infrastructures in both the Arctic and Antarctica through a single, unique project.

The EU-funded POLARIN project (Polar Research Infrastructure Network) consists of a network of 50 partner institutes. Together, they will deliver virtual and remote access to 64 polar research infrastructures. They will also promote interdisciplinary research that addresses the scientific challenges in both polar regions.

Norwegian partners and tasks

The German Alfred Wegener Institute coordinates POLARIN, the new EU research infrastructure project in both polar regions. The Norwegian partners are NILU, SIOS, University of Tromsø (UiT) and the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI).

“In cooperation with the ACTRIS DC, NILU’s role in POLARIN involves enhancing data services and developing customized data products for the Arctic and Antarctica,” says Dr. Shridhar Jawak. He and Dr. Cathrine Lund Myhre are heavily involved in this newly launched project.

He adds that UiT, through APECS, will provide training for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) to use cutting-edge Research Infrastructures (RIs). SIOS will contribute to establishing regional cryosphere datasets for snow, glacier, and permafrost. NPI will grant access to the infrastructure supporting the project in both polar regions.

The only project of its kind

The polar regions are of critical importance for our climate. At the same time, they are considered to be early-warning systems for climate change and focus areas for human expansion and the exploration of new resources. The two regions are characterised by progressive ice loss and rapidly changing oceans and landmasses. The consequences of this polar transformation can be felt across the planet and affect human beings in various ways. Accordingly, political decisionmakers need data-based recommendations on the future use of the polar regions.

However, there are few research infrastructures that can operate in these remote, extreme environs. Providing access to and integrating existing research infrastructures is the key to strengthening European research. In addition, doing so will improve observational and modelling capacities in terms of overcoming the great challenges that these regions – and, due to global interactions, the entire “Earth system” – are facing.

“What sets POLARIN apart is that, for the first time, we’ll be offering access to research infrastructures in the Arctic and Antarctic alike through a single project,” explains Dr Nicole Biebow, the project’s coordinator at the Alfred Wegener Institute. “We’ve created a network of dovetailing and interdisciplinary research infrastructures that encompasses all related research areas – from marine and terrestrial research to the atmosphere. The approach is innovative and unique. It’s the only project of its kind.”

From icebreakers to observatories

The 64 leading polar research infrastructures in POLARIN will provide access to includes Arctic and Antarctic research stations, research vessels and icebreakers at both poles. Sea and land based observatories, among them the Norwegian Zeppelin and Trollhaugen observatories, are also part of POLARIN, as well as data infrastructures and repositories for ice and sediment cores.

On the one hand, this will be done by allotting slots within the respective infrastructures; on the other, virtual access will be granted to e.g. data infrastructures. Moreover, POLARIN will offer remote access to the infrastructures – which means, researchers will be able to request samples, datasets and other resources, which will then be gathered / prepared at the respective infrastructure without any need for the requester to be on site.

“NILU is particularly focusing on footprint products for short-lived atmospheric species like black carbon. This contributes to the overall aim of making data from polar regions more accessible and usable for interpreting atmospheric measurements,” concludes Dr Jawak.