211. SAMS and Cefas both work in the Arctic but on
a much smaller scale to the effort of BAS in the southern polar
seas. SAMS has a long history of Arctic interests and has received
NERC strategic funding over the past six years for a range of
polar studies in the European Arctic.
It has also worked with EU programmes, most recently the Damocles
project to measure the properties and volume of the water leaving
the Arctic system in the coastal waters of Greenland, and is the
only UK partner in the Marine Laboratory at Ny Alesund, Svalbard,
for which it has dedicated funding for ten years.
Cefas is involved in measurements of the flow of cold dense water
out of the Arctic region in the sea east of Greenland, which measurements
"form a component of the largest ocean-observing system in
the hemisphere, the Arctic-Subarctic Ocean Flux study, which was
instigated and is currently chaired by Cefas".
The aim of this study is "to map out and quantify the freshwater
flux out of the Arctic, which is thought to modulate the thermohaline
circulation of the World Ocean and provides us with an understanding
to support prediction of future climate change".
Cefas is also participating in Damocles.
212. Evidence from NERC centres suggests that more
attention needs to be paid by the UK to the Arctic. POL described
the Arctic as a "barometer" and as the "engine
room" for rapid climate change. They argued that "In
view of the extreme climate sensitivity of the Arctic, the likely
global impact that it will create and the sensitivity of UK climate
thereto via the thermohaline circulation, we believe that the
UK should be at the forefront of research aimed at developing
regional (including Arctic) climate prediction models."
NOCS agreed that there needs to be a shift of focus of marine
science towards the Arctic seas and that "the UK will need
to develop its particular contribution in this field of research
where other nations have more experience and resources".
This might be a matter of co-ordination, rather than substantial
extra funding. At the moment, Arctic work is reliant on responsive
mode grants, and Professor Willmott of POL suggested that these
needs to be harnessed "in a more effective way under a common
umbrella to better address some of these really important questions
relating to global change driven by the change in the Arctic".
BAS agreed that "it is not as much a question necessarily
of resource but being more integrated".
We note that the recent report from NERC concluded that "a
more strategic, long-term approach" to Arctic science was
needed on the part of NERC to make a significant impact in the
213. There is no UK equivalent for BAS working in
the Arctic to lead and co-ordinate activity. Witnesses agreed
that the necessary expansion of British involvement in the Arctic
would best be done in combination with other nations, led by one
of the institutes with current experience in this area. Professor
Willmott of POL explained that "we [the UK] have the intellectual
base; we have the people, but I think we do not have the infrastructure
to go up there and carry out programmes either in marine environment
or working looking at meteorological changes".
He suggested that "there is a strong case for us over the
next ten years to up our game in partnership probably with other
European countries, such as Norway and countries like Canada,
bordering on the Arctic".
Professor Shimmield of SAMS pointed out that there had been "in
the last five years a dramatic shift in the way in which Arctic
research and Arctic marine research is being carried out",
exemplified by "joint education programmes for the universities
in the Arctic and UK universities and the University of Svalbard,
which is an international organisation for training both at undergraduate
and postgraduate level".
SAMS is "a founder member of the EU Integrated Infrastructure
ProgrammeENVINET working in the European high Arctic."
214. International co-operation on infrastructure
for Arctic research would certainly need to include the use of
research vessels. BAS research vessels are not appropriate for
Arctic cruises and are heavily committed in the Southern Ocean,
so new dedicated facilities, including an ice-breaker, would be
needed to provide year-round data from the Arctic. Professor Shimmield
of SAMS agreed that the provision of such vessels "would
clearly need to be done, I think, at a European co-ordination
One possibility would be the long-standing proposal to build a
although the NERC polar working group was decidedly equivocal
in its support for this vessel.
Instead, the group argued that there should be collaborative arrangements
to permit UK scientists to use Canadian, Russian and Swedish vessels,
with the necessary proviso that the UK should have a significant
partnership role, allowing participation in the planning of cruises,
215. Another expansion of UK capability in the Arctic
could be through logistics support. SAMS called in its evidence
for NERC to establish "a physical co-ordination and logistics
centre" in the Arctic as part of IPY, preferably run by SAMS.
POL pointed out that SAMS has "a long track record of collaborating
with Arctic nations, in particular the Norwegians".
If it were decided to designate a NERC centre as a focus of Arctic
activity, SAMS would be an obvious choice. POL argued that BAS
was not in a position to provide leadership for Arctic research
in addition to their work in the Antarctic because they lacked
the facilities and time to do so.
216. The UK could also offer capability in the development
of regional Arctic climate prediction models through the Hadley
Centre, BAS, the National Centre for Atmospheric Sciences, the
Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling, the National Oceanography
Centre and the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory.
POL suggested that the modelling capabilities of these centres
should be co-ordinated "under the umbrella of a new UK initiative,
the Arctic Climate Prediction Programme, say" to enhance
There is clearly scope for the development of collaboration in
217. Professor Dickson
of Cefas argued that UK effort had increased in the Arctic in
the last ten years and there was now much more information available
about the region than before.
The NERC Chief Executive accepted that the Council needed to invest
more in Arctic research. He pointed out that NERC was working
to identify future priority areas
and examining opportunities to collaborate with other countries
in Arctic research.
We believe that the UK should be more involved in Arctic science.
We do not, however, believe that this expansion in the north should
be at the expense of the UK effort in Antarctica. Nor do we believe
that it should be grafted on to the remit of BAS who have a very
specific expertise. Instead, we would prefer to see the UK take
a leading role in international co-ordinating bodies, such as
the International Arctic Science Committee, with more support
given to SAMS, in particular, to take up this increase in responsibilities,
and a strong focus on UK strengths, rather than trying to provide
independent capacity. We recommend that NERC identify funding
for an expansion of Arctic research in collaboration with other
nations which already have substantial presence there.