Glaciers and ice sheets can be effective indicators of environmental change and are of particular interest to researchers. The Mass Balance of Arctic Glaciers and Ice Sheets (MAGICS; project is assessing the current state of Arctic glaciers and icecaps in order to improve predictions of the effects of climate change on the evolution of polar ice sheets, future rises in sea levels and freshwater input to the sea.


The first Arctic research stations were established in the last decades of the 19th century. Today they offer hi-tech support to international teams across the north.

In Alaska the Toolik Field Station ( is a national research facility for the study of biology, geology, hydrology and ecosystems. In Barrow the former Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (UIC-NARL) and the Arctic Research Facility provide venues for research on bowhead whales, fisheries and waterfowl. Also in Barrow, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( operates a key Arctic climate-change research facility. The University of Alaska Fairbanks ( conducts Arctic and subarctic studies and supports the Geophysical Institute, the Alaska Satellite Facility ( and the International Arctic Research Center.

In Canada the Polar Continental Shelf Project ( runs bases at Resolute Bay and Tuktoyaktuk supporting over 150 scientific groups throughout the Canadian Arctic. The Nunavut Research Institute ( centres in Iqaluit and Igloolik focus on linking Inuit traditional knowledge with Western science. The Aurora Research Institute ( in Inuvik is an additional support organisation for long-term data collection.

In Greenland the Danish Polar Centre (DPC) runs the Zackenberg Arctic Field Station. The field station is home to ZERO (Zackenberg Ecological Research Operations), which conducts the world's only integrated long-term monitoring of animals, plants, climate, geology, geomorphol-ogy and permafrost. The DPC also supports KISS (Kangerlussuaq International Science Support), a logistics base for researchers that operates year round. In Nuuk the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources (, in Green land ic) focuses on gathering scientific data on selected species valued by Greenland's society. The Arctic Station, a research base in Qeqertarsuaq, Disko Island, runs all year. It's owned and operated by the University of Copenhagen, which also operates the small field station Sermilik, near Tasiilaq. At the top of the Greenlandic ice sheet the permanent research and monitoring facility Summit is operated by the United States' National Science Foundation.

Ny Álesund in Svalbard, Norway, is the site of year-round research by the Norwegian Polar Institute ( The Norwegian Institute for Air Research has an atmospheric research station here and the Norwegian Mapping Authority runs a high-precision space geodesy observatory. Other research stations in Norway include the Svanhovd Environmental Centre (, which gathers and distributes information about the Barents Region, and the Norwegian Polar Institute headquarters in Tromso, one of the world's leading polar research centres.

Sweden maintains the Abisko Scientific Research Station (, which has a long-running meteorological observatory and a focus on plant ecology. In Kiruna the Swedish Institute of Space Physics ( conducts an atmospheric research programme in addition to running an environmental satellite data centre and maintaining a climate impacts research centre.

Finland's major Arctic research institute is the Arctic Centre (, which is run by the University of Lapland and based in Rovaniemi. The centre's area of specialisation is the exploration, understanding and communication of the effects of global changes on the societies and environments of the Arctic.

Russia's Academy of Sciences operates the Kola Science Centre ( in Apatity and the Murmansk Marine Biological Institute ( Research on migratory birds is also carried out at the Willem Barents Biological Station on Medusa Bay, while Arctic ecosystems research, environmental monitoring and management are conducted from the Lena-Nordenskióld Biological Station. In general you need to apply in writing and have some scientific reason for visiting. However, the more remote stations, such as those in Greenland, will usually accept visits arranged through the tourist office. You can arrange guided tours of Svanhold by appointment, and the Arctic Centre's library (© 10am-5pm Mon-Fri) and information centre (see p314) can be visited.


Analysis of air bubbles in the ice shows that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are now higher than at anytime in the last 400,000 years.


As ice melts and more soil, rock and open water becomes visible, the planet absorbs more solar radiation and the extra heat accelerates the melting process.

Currently, there is much debate about whether the Greenland ice sheet has lost or gained mass. Although new snow has been deposited at the summit, ice is melting fast around the edges.

In Norway researchers work inside and underneath the Svartisen Icecap (see p301) in a series of tunnels built by the state power company, which generates hydroelectric power from glacial meltwater. Some of these tunnels provide access to the base of the glacier, offering scientists a unique opportunity to observe a glacier from below. One focus of the team's research has been glacier movement, and scientists have discovered that debris in the ice at the glacier's base creates large amounts of friction, which slows advances. However, glaciers in general are slipping towards the sea faster than expected as meltwater from the surface trickles to the base and lubricates the sheet from below. So far this effect has not been considered in computer models predicting ice sheet response to climate change.

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Digital Cameras For Beginners

Although we usually tend to think of the digital camera as the best thing since sliced bread, there are both pros and cons with its use. Nothing is available on the market that does not have both a good and a bad side, but the key is to weigh the good against the bad in order to come up with the best of both worlds.

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