Russia’s War Has Left a Huge Gap in Arctic Research

Franz Josef Land in the Russian Arctic.

Franz Josef Land in the Russian Arctic. Timinilya via Wikipedia

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Western scientists have lost access to information from Russian research stations in the Arctic, leaving a critical gap in the data from the rapidly warming region.

A new analysis investigated the effect of losing this data. For the study, scientists looked at northern 60 field stations belonging to an Arctic research network, including 17 Russian stations that were barred from the network after war broke out.

These 60 stations tend to be situated in warmer, wetter areas, meaning that, even before the war, the data gathered had a warm, wet bias. The loss of data from Russian outposts in colder, drier regions has worsened this bias, scientists reported in Nature Climate Change.

The shift in the baseline data is “of the same magnitude as the anticipated climate change shifts by the end of the century,” authors wrote. As a result, scientists’ ability to monitor changes in the Arctic “may be severely limited over the foreseeable future.”

The Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the globe, with important ramifications. Arctic forest fires and melting permafrost are unleashing huge sums of heat-trapping gases, while melting ice is raising sea levels. The loss of data in this critical region will make it harder to study the impact of climate change worldwide.

To close the data gap, scientists called on the international community “to strive for establishing and improving a research infrastructure and standardized monitoring programmes representative of the entire Arctic.”


How Tensions With Russia Are Jeopardizing Key Arctic Research