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Russian Arctic research on thin ice

Russia has organized drifting research stations in the Arctic 40 times. Photo: Rosatom

After many years of expeditions with drifting North Pole stations, vanishing ice forces Russian Arctic researchers to go for unmanned solutions.

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Talking at an international polar conference in Sankt Petersburg on Wednesday, Head of the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Institute Ivan Frolov confirmed that Russia will conduct no more missions with drifting Arctic research stations.

Frolov instead proposes to base a series of drifing research buoys in the region. He also suggests to build a specially designed platform which can drift with the Arctic current, RIA Novosti reports.

Since 1937, a total of 40 missions have been conducted with well-manned North Pole drifting stations. The ongoing 40th mission will be the last.

As previously reported, the researchers had major problems with finding a suitable icefloes for the ongoing North Pole-40 mission.

The drifting North Pole stations, which have been organized by the Arctic and Antarctic Institute, have given major contributions to Russian research on the Arctic. In average, 15 people have manned the stations, which have included both housing and research facilites. Normally, the stations have been established in April and subsequently operated for up to three years when the ice floes end up in the Greenland straits. This year, however, the researchers were forced to end the previous North Pole-39 mission in the Canadian part of the Arctic following vanishing ice. 

As previously reported, the Arctic ice layers this year reached a historical low.

Analysis of satellite data by NASA and the NASA-supported NSIDC at the University of Colorado in Boulder showed that the sea ice extent shrunk to 3.41 million square kilometers. The former record-low from 2007 amounted to 4.17 million square kilometers.