Russian polar research to ensure exploration of seasonallyand permanently frozen areas at sea

A. I. Danilov, - Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute of RosGidroMet (Agency on Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring)

Navigation in frozen water areas under jurisdiction of the Russian Federation is carried out under complicated natural climate conditions.

Seawater ice present in the wintertime, severe atmospheric conditions, low temperature values and a number of further factors have negative effect over safety and economic efficiency of navigation. Implementation of large-scale power energy projects at the continental plate of frozen water seas, as well as growing amounts of maritime traffic, increase the risks affecting the environment. Tasks including provision for hydro-meteorological safety of sea-borne objects, economical efficiency of extraction and transportation of hydrocarbon raw materials and other maritime operations are solved in close cooperation of the government structures and businesses (subsoil users, transportation companies, etc.), where the following priority trends are observed:

  1. Development of on-line hydrometeorological support systems (HMS) for maritime activity (transport operations, construction of marine facilities, etc.)
  2. Informational support to the necessary and suitable extent for design of complex marine facilities for freezing seas (mining complexes, offshore pipelines, onshore infrastructure).
  3. Scientific research as the basis for medium- and long-term analysis of key environmental parameters effecting maritime activity.
  4. Monitoring of marine environment pollution especially in the areas featuring active navigation.

1. Development of Online Hydrometeorological Support Systems for Maritime Activity.

The hydrometeorological support is based on the system of monitoring activities, including hydrometeorological stations, automatic monitoring facilities, aircraft and spacecraft, scientific research vessels. Generally speaking, the currently existing monitoring system satisfies all the needs faced by the marine segment fulfilling the requests placed by the Northern Sea Route (NSR) customers. The chain of offshore and island stations is being restored and modernized.

Further improvement of the hydrometeorological support system shall require development of all-weather monitoring for state of ice cover, based on system analysis of the multi-channel satellite data. Development of online delivery of large amounts of ice conditions and hydrometeorological data directly to vessels, ice breaker ships, drilling plates and other objects at sea is of vital significance.

Development of monitoring systems and intensification of shipping activities lead to invigoration of presence and sovereignty of the Russian Federation in the Arctic. This proves substantial, as the interest of the rest of the world towards the nautical Arctic as the source of energy resources is experiencing rapid growth. The European countries including Norway, Finland and others, as well as the United States are committed to using their technological and technical potential in their strife for exploration of power energy resources of the Russian part of the continental plate. This refers to the hydrometeorological support technologies and the monitoring systems, as well as to participation in the hydrometeorological support activities in the Russian water zone.

2. Informational Support for Design of Complex Marine Facilities for Freezing Seas.

Implementation of complex maritime projects, including those referred to as Stockmanovskoye and Prirazlomnoye, require adequate accounting for natural and climatic conditions, based on full-scale application of historical data and accumulation of specialized data (engineering, hydrometeorological, geological, ecological and further types of research and investigations).

In the recent years the range of scientific and application-oriented research activities in the field of hydrometeorology performed by means of Russian sources has been growing. These include high-latitude research based on drifting stations “The North Pole” (Severniy Poljus), the board of the Research and expedition vessel “Academician Fedorov”, and a number of others performed at the costs of the federal budget. A great number of research and exploration activities aimed at development of power energy projects (Prirazlomnoye, Stockmanovskoye, and others) has been performed at the expense of the subsoil users: incl. such companies, as Gazprom, Rosneft, Lukoil, etc.

This year the AARI is engaged in implementation of a number of large-scale nautical expeditions part of International Polar Year Program 2007/08. The Arctic-2007 expedition on board REV “Academician Fedorov” has started in July. First working phase of the activities with atomic-powered icebreaker “Arctica” included performance of a unique operation using submersible crafts Mir-1 and Mir-2. The Russian National Flag has been fixed at the bottom of the ocean at the North Pole point; bottom samples have been collected and a research cycle from the board of REV “Academician Fedorov” has been performed. Further stages of the project shall include a considerable range of activities to organize the drifting station “North Pole-35”. Within the period covering May through August a temporary drifting station launched from the board of the icebreaker “Yamal” has been working in the Arctic. Sufficient results have been obtained by the Ministry of Natural Resources expedition on atomic-powered icebreaker “Yamal” regarding the issue of the border of the continental plate (May-June 2007).

In the meantime deficit of economically efficient scientific vessels capable of performing works in complex ice water conditions is evident. Scientific expeditions are bound to be performed on board the icebreakers, including atomic-powered icebreakers. The vessel REV “Mikhail Somov” property of RosGidroMet, which is the main supplier of ice water data for the continental plate projects in the Barents Sea, is now 31 years old. This extremely reliable icebreaker-type vessel is significantly less expensive than large icebreakers, which furthermore are engaged in activities as to their direct application.

3. Scientific Research as the Basis for Medium- and Long-Term Analysis of Key Environmental Parameters Effecting Maritime Activity

The Arctic is the region featuring extremely dynamic and least stable climatic processes, and the existing balance being upset shall inevitably lead to global climatic shifts throughout the northern hemisphere. The ecological system in the region is highly fragile and the presently existing man-made environmental burdens only promise to grow in the future.

The study of polar region processes is of great significance to weather forecasting for the polar and middle latitudes. The processes taking place in the near the ground atmosphere are fundamentally influential over the ice conditions, especially in shallow sea areas of the arctic continental plate, where the Northern Sea Route goes. Displacement of ice masses and emerging icebergs are hazardous factors that may affect sea traffic, hydrocarbon production, and the fishing industry. The Arctic region is a study issue requiring very special attention as a significant constituent part of the global climatic system, which is closely connected to its other elements due to heat transfer, humidity, salt and water circulation in the atmosphere and the World Ocean.

In the course of the past century the global average air temperature has grown by 0.6±0.2°С, and its variation in the Arctic has proven highest. In the course of the 20th century the warming process in the Arctic has changed to cooling, and in the past two decades has again been replaced by significant warming. Spatial pattern of climatic changes in the Arctic also features highly heterogeneous character. There is still no single reply as to the extent of warming in the Arctic region in the 21st century. The changes concerned may affect the interests of many countries participating in active exploration of the polar regions of this planet.

Periods of use for large offshore objects combine to several decades. Scientifically based evaluations of integrated environmental influence of these objects, as well as accounting for environmental changes over 30-50 year periods are required. Particularly this concerns climatic changes in the Arctic and the consequences of such effects as the risk factor to maritime activity.

4. Monitoring of Marine Environment Pollution Especially in the Areas Featuring Active Navigation.

Intensification of navigation increases human pressure over the marine environment and the marine ecosystems, most crucially under severe conditions of the Arctic. Monitoring of marine environment pollution and the changes taking place in the marine ecosystems shapes the informational basis providing for economic security in the navigation areas.

Governmental structures shall strive to possess full scope of comprehensive information regarding the extent of marine environment pollution, which they acquire at the expense of state funds, support from subsoil users, transportation businesses and as part of international collaboration.

Development of fundamental and applied research remains the primary long-term objective that is to be implemented as constituent part of Russia’s nautical politics in the Arctic Region.

Go to Index of # 3(21) 2007


# 3(21), 2007
Ocean and shelf exploration