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Russian Arctic scientists to be evacuated from ice floe

Part of the floating research station "North Pole-2015".

An icebreaker sailed from Murmansk yesterday to pick up 17 scientists who have spent four months on an ice floe near the North Pole.

The icebreaker “Kapitan Dranitsyn” left Murmansk on August 4th to pick up equipment and personnel from the floating research station “North Pole-2015”. The planned evacuation will take about two weeks, and the icebreaker is expected to return to Murmansk in mid-August, TASS reports.

“The scientists have been able to get really valuable scientific data on biodiversity and signs of climate change in different environments,” Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources Sergey Donskoy says to TASS.

Thanks to favorable climatic conditions, the floating research station has been able to work twice as long as it was planned to do. “North Pole-2015” officially stared operations on April 19.

“The research has great scientific value as it allows us to watch natural processes that not only have an impact on the climate of our planet, but are indicators of the ongoing climate change,” Donskoy says.

Russia has had floating research stations in the Arctic since 1937. Normally a station was established on an ice floe in September-October, and some two dozens of scientists would spend the winter there, measuring climate and weather conditions. The stations have had numbers from North Pole-1 to North Pole-40, so this year’s station – North Pole-2015, is the first to break this tradition.

During the last couple of years, it has become more and more difficult to find ice floessolid enough to hold a station, and last year The Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute recommended stopping using manned stations on ice floes because of the high risks.

The last station Russia established in the High North, “North Pole-40”, had to be evacuated in May 2013, because the ice floe the base was placed on, started to break apart. The 16 scientists that had spent the winter on the floe had to be picked up by a nuclear-powered icebreaker sent out from Murmansk. Russia has not had any similar station in the Arctic during the two last winters.

A recent study shows that the ice in the central Arctic Ocean has thinned dramaticallyover the last 40 years – from 3.59 meters to 1.25 meters between 1975 and 2012.