Scientific research in the Arctic
The High Arctic is presently experiencing the greatest local warming anywhere on our planet with Glaciers melting, permafrost thawing and sea ice retreating at about 4% per decade. These changes are transforming the physical properties of the Arctic Ocean and, therefore, its ecosystems. The wildlife familiar to the region, including whales, walruses, polar bears and birds, as well as commercially exploited fish, depend on the growth of microscopic plants at the base of the food chain. These phytoplankton rely on energy from sunlight to grow (photosynthesis). Their ecology is intimately linked to the changes in the physical environment. Even in summer they are screened from light due to substantial stretches of the Arctic being covered by sea ice. However, the lack of historical observations has slowed progress in understanding the Arctic Ocean, its connections to other parts of the Earth system and its ecosystems, but advances in technology and knowledge mean that it is now possible to design and implement sustained, reliable and cost-effective observations for this remote environment.