UK agrees deal with Canada to share polar facilities
31 March 2009
A new polar research agreement between UK and Canada to share ships, aircraft and polar bases, and increase science cooperation, paves the way for a greater understanding of the rapidly changing polar regions.
Canadian researchers may soon have access to British Antarctic Survey planes like this one.
Results from the recently-completed International Polar Year (IPY) highlight the need for more research on the regional and global consequences of disappearing ice and melting permafrost. IPY has also illustrated how greater international cooperation will help address these challenges. The new UK-Canada partnership is an important early example of governments and researchers working to build this legacy.
The UK is not an Arctic Rim state and has no territories in the region, but it does have a research facility at Ny-Ålesund on the Norwegian island Svalbard in the Arctic. Canada on the other hand is a signatory to the Antarctic Treaty but has no Antarctic research facility.
The British Antarctic Survey operates and manages aircraft, ships and polar field stations.
The first steps of the partnership have been in agreeing greater access to both Antarctica and the Arctic and the essential infrastructure - such as field stations, polar observatories, ski-equipped aircraft, icebreakers and snow vehicles.
'We're excited that the UK and Canada will be sharing access to facilities to push forward the frontiers of polar research. '
Dr Steven Wilson, director of strategy and partnerships, NERC
The British Antarctic Survey operates and manages four ski-equipped Twin Otter aircraft as well as a Dash-7 aeroplane. It also manages two ice-capable vessels: the RRS James Clark Ross and the RRS Ernest Shackleton; five research stations in Antarctica and a base at Ny-Ålesund in the Arctic. RRS James Clark Ross has some of Britain's most advanced facilities for oceanographic research.
Science teams from the UK and Canada met in Ottawa this month to identify and scope significant research areas of common interest. The teams discussed pooling scientific expertise and sharing knowledge, facilities and resources. This first science meeting provides a basis for more detailed future planning meetings between leading NERC-funded researchers at both UK universities and NERC Centres - such as the British Antarctic Survey - and their counterparts in Canada.
The negotiations up until now have led an agreement for the two nations to share the British Antarctic Survey's five aeroplanes and two ships and the Canadian high arctic research station at Resolute in Nunavut.
Dr Steven Wilson, director of strategy and partnerships at the Natural Environment Research Council, who led discussions on the agreement in Canada said, 'We're excited that the UK and Canada will be sharing access to facilities to push forward the frontiers of polar research. The success of International Polar Year demonstrates the benefits of combining intellectual and physical resources in making great leaps in our understanding of the biggest environmental issues of our time.'
Dr Cynan Ellis-Evans of BAS who is taking a leading role in developing the working arrangements as head of a NERC-funded UK Arctic Coordination Office, hosted at BAS, said, 'There is so much that we still don't know about the polar regions, such as the consequences of an ice-free Arctic Ocean or the processes and rates of ice-loss in the polar ice sheets.'
'The ice sheet issue was a specific shortcoming recognised in the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.'
'There are huge benefits in applying our collective expertise, logistics and facilities to answer the urgent questions about our planet. The Canadians, like the British have enormous experience and knowledge about the biological and environmental changes that are happening as the ice disappears. I'm looking forward to many successful working partnerships as the UK-Canada relationship develops.'
International Polar Year (IPY) was a joint initiative of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the largest programme of its kind in the past 50 years. Around 50,000 scientists from over 60 countries carried out 160 research and outreach projects, some are still underway. The effort resulted in a 'State of the Poles' report published earlier this month.
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