Skip to main content

The future of UK-Canada research collaborations in the Arctic

The Arctic is one of the most rapidly changing environments on Earth, with dramatic warming of the atmosphere and the oceans, accelerating glaciers, melting permafrost and shrinking sea ice.

All of these changes have major consequences for the indigenous groups of the Arctic countries: changing ocean ecosystems will impact fisheries and other natural resources, collapsing permafrost damages their homes and infrastructure, and disappearing sea ice effects their trade routes. All with implications for employment, education, and health.

Whilst these headlines reach the UK press, the immediate consequences can seem far away from our shores. However, a changing Arctic has a world-wide reach, contributing towards global sea-level and biodiversity changes, and putting pressure on shipping, natural resources, and international relations.

There have been recent large-scale efforts within the UK research community to increase our understanding of the high-latitudes. The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) launched the multi-million pound Changing Arctic Ocean program in 2017, initially comprising four projects investigating oceanic processes linked with the shifting sea ice dynamics, largely in the Barents Sea and Fram Straight regions near Iceland and Norway. Whilst these projects have already been successful in producing critical new data, and have developed to include a number of new projects, the focus is still firmly within the natural sciences. There is a clear need to include other disciplines, especially social sciences, and to expand to other geographical regions.

Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to attend a joint meeting between NERC and Polar Knowledge, Canada, as part of the 2018 ArcticNet meeting in Ottawa. The meeting brought together researchers and funding organisations from the UK and Canada, together with representatives of indigenous groups and northern communities. By getting these groups of people around a table together in one place, the aim was to go some way to creating a new strong international Arctic research partnership, to understand the interests and strengths in Arctic research in the two countries, make personal links and identify the next steps for all stakeholders.

For me, the meeting was worthwhile alone for the connections that I made, but also for the steep learning-curve in my understanding of Canadian research priorities: linking with people in Northern communities, building on infrastructure, engaging with communities, and blending with Indigenous Knowledge. I was particularly impressed with the true public engagement that is carried out, in their Northern approach to science, through public consultations, gap analysis, and identification of key principles in research and research ethics.

Now it’s a matter of developing the ideas that were discussed enthusiastically in the room, to build research plans with direct societal impact, true stakeholder engagement, and opportunities for early career researchers. It’s an exciting – and timely – moment to be in Arctic research. 

This blog is written by Dr Kate Hendry from the University of Bristol School of Earth Sciences and the Cabot Institute for the Environment

Popular posts from this blog

Converting probabilities between time-intervals

This is the first in an irregular sequence of snippets about some of the slightly more technical aspects of uncertainty and risk assessment.  If you have a slightly more technical question, then please email me and I will try to answer it with a snippet. Suppose that an event has a probability of 0.015 (or 1.5%) of happening at least once in the next five years. Then the probability of the event happening at least once in the next year is 0.015 / 5 = 0.003 (or 0.3%), and the probability of it happening at least once in the next 20 years is 0.015 * 4 = 0.06 (or 6%). Here is the rule for scaling probabilities to different time intervals: if both probabilities (the original one and the new one) are no larger than 0.1 (or 10%), then simply multiply the original probability by the ratio of the new time-interval to the original time-interval, to find the new probability. This rule is an approximation which breaks down if either of the probabilities is greater than 0.1. For example

1-in-200 year events

You often read or hear references to the ‘1-in-200 year event’, or ‘200-year event’, or ‘event with a return period of 200 years’. Other popular horizons are 1-in-30 years and 1-in-10,000 years. This term applies to hazards which can occur over a range of magnitudes, like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, space weather, and various hydro-meteorological hazards like floods, storms, hot or cold spells, and droughts. ‘1-in-200 years’ refers to a particular magnitude. In floods this might be represented as a contour on a map, showing an area that is inundated. If this contour is labelled as ‘1-in-200 years’ this means that the current rate of floods at least as large as this is 1/200 /yr, or 0.005 /yr. So if your house is inside the contour, there is currently a 0.005 (0.5%) chance of being flooded in the next year, and a 0.025 (2.5%) chance of being flooded in the next five years. The general definition is this: ‘1-in-200 year magnitude is x’ = ‘the current rate for eve

Coconuts and climate change

Before pursuing an MSc in Climate Change Science and Policy at the University of Bristol, I completed my undergraduate studies in Environmental Science at the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. During my final year I carried out a research project that explored the impact of extreme weather events on coconut productivity across the three climatic zones of Sri Lanka. A few months ago, I managed to get a paper published and I thought it would be a good idea to share my findings on this platform. Climate change and crop productivity  There has been a growing concern about the impact of extreme weather events on crop production across the globe, Sri Lanka being no exception. Coconut is becoming a rare commodity in the country, due to several reasons including the changing climate. The price hike in coconuts over the last few years is a good indication of how climate change is affecting coconut productivity across the country. Most coconut trees are no longer bearing fruits and thos