India’s 1st Arctic Winter Expedition

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • India’s involvement in Arctic
  • News Summary: India’s 1st Arctic Winter Expedition
  • Key highlights of the expedition to Arctic
  • Why is the Arctic region being studied?
  • Why are expeditions to the Arctic challenging?
  • Which countries are studying the Arctic?

Why in news?

  • Raman Research Institute (RRI) will participate in the first winter Indian expedition to the Arctic region.
    • RRI is an autonomous research institute engaged in research in basic sciences.
    • It was founded in 1948 by the Indian physicist and Nobel Laureate Sir C V Raman.
    • It was restructured in 1972 to become an aided autonomous institute receiving funds from the Department of Science and Technology, GoI.
  • This will be for the first time that researchers will examine the characterisation of the radio frequency environment in the Svalbard region of the Arctic.

India’s involvement in Arctic

  • Initial Phase
    • India’s engagement with the Arctic dates back to 1920 with the signing of the Svalbard Treaty in Paris.
    • India is one of the very few countries to set up a permanent station in the Arctic for the purposes of scientific research.
    • It launched its first scientific expedition to Arctic in the first week of August, 2007.
      • Subsequently, India has been sending scientific teams every summer and winter for carrying out studies in the Arctic.
      • Indian studies are primarily focused in the fields of glaciology, hydrochemistry, microbiology, and atmospheric sciences.
  • Subsequent involvement
    • The Himadri research station, located in Ny Alesund, Svalbard in Norway, was started in July 2008.
    • In 2014, India deployed IndArc, a multisensory observatory in Kongsfjorden.
    • In 2016, India’s northernmost atmospheric laboratory was established at Gruvebadet.
      • It was established to study clouds, precipitation, long-range pollutants, and other background atmospheric parameters.
  • India is an observer in the Arctic Council since 2013
    • Its membership as an observer was renewed in 2019 for another five years.
      • The Council is the leading intergovernmental forum promoting cooperation on common Arctic
      • Established by the eight Arctic States — the countries whose territories fall in the Arctic region — through the Ottawa Declaration of 1996.
      • Member Nations of the Council - Canada, Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States.
  • Arctic Policy launched
    • In March 2022, the Indian government unveiled an Arctic policy.
    • It envisages India’s engagement in the Arctic region for climate research, environmental monitoring, maritime cooperation and energy security.
    • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (under the Ministry of Earth Sciences) will serve as the nodal agency in implementing the Arctic Policy.

News Summary: India’s 1st Arctic Winter Expedition

  • Starting this week, India will have around-the-year manning of the Arctic with the launch of the first-ever winter expedition in this region.
  • With this, India’s Himadri will be only the fourth research station in the Arctic to be manned around the year.

Key highlights of the expedition to Arctic

  • Month-long scientific expedition to Arctic launched
    • The month-long scientific expedition, scheduled between December 19, 2023 and January 15, 2024, is being funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
    • The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), Goa, is the nodal agency spearheading the expedition.
  • Scientists will conduct SARAS series of experiments
    • RRI have been at the forefront of developing the SARAS (Shaped Antenna measurement of the background RAdio Spectrum) series of experiments.
    • SARAS focuses on studying the faint cosmological signal from hydrogen, known as the 21-cm signal, during the Cosmic Dawn and the Epoch of Reionization.
      • Cosmic Dawn denotes the period when the first stars and galaxies were born in the universe.
      • These are the two vital phases which the universe underwent during its early stages of evolution several billions of years ago.
      • These periods in cosmic history are not well understood due to lack of observations.
      • The signals emerging from this period are extremely faint and weak, their detection remains daunting.
      • In addition, they are affected by brighter radiations emitted by several radio frequency interference (RFI) sources like:
        • cell phone towers, FM and television stations, along with the natural sources of radiation prevailing within the universe.
    • Sensitive electronic instruments will be used to study the incoming radio signals in the frequency range 5 – 500 megahertz (MHz) at the accessible sites in the vicinity of Himadri.

Why is the Arctic region being studied?

  • The region above the Arctic Circle, north of latitude 66° 34’ N, includes the Arctic Ocean.
  • Scientific evidence has shown that the Arctic ice and the sea ice have the potential to affect humans outside the Arctic region, as sea levels rise, and to influence atmospheric circulations.
  • Due to unprecedented changes owing to global warming, the Arctic could become a more habitable and less hostile place.
  • In no time, there could be a rush to explore and exploit the region’s resources and minerals, and to gain supremacy over the trade, navigation and other geo-economic and strategic sectors.

Why are expeditions to the Arctic challenging?

  • There are challenges related to the environment.
    • At the research base Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard, Norway, the mean temperature in February – the year’s coldest month – is minus 14 degrees Celsius.
    • On the other hand, the mean temperature during the warmest month, July, is 5 degrees Celsius.
    • Due to a hostile environment, performing both outdoor and indoor scientific observations or sampling has remained largely limited to the summer months.
    • So far, only three research stations have had permanent staff deployment in the Arctic round-the-year.
  • With multiple state jurisdictions in the Arctic, there is limited space available for establishing independent research stations.
    • The Arctic Council promotes cooperation in this region.
  • Geopolitical tensions, such as amid the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war, could cut off the Arctic regions from explorations.

Which countries are studying the Arctic?

  • In 1990, the National Institute of Polar Research, Japan, was the first to establish a research station in Ny-Ålesund.
  • Located 2,100 km north of Norway’s capital Oslo, Ny-Ålesund has ten countries: China, Germany, France, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and United Kingdom.
  • They have set up eleven permanent research stations. Of these, only three stations have human presence around the year, until now.

Q1) What is National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR)?

The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) is an autonomous research and development (R&D) institution under the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES). It was established in 1998. It is responsible for planning and conducting polar expeditions and scientific research in the Antarctica, Arctic, Himalayas, and Southern Ocean.

Q2) What is Svalbard Treaty?

The Svalbard Treaty, also known as the Treaty Concerning the Archipelago of Spitsbergen, was adopted in 1920. It granted Norway full sovereignty over the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, but with two major limitations: all parties to the treaty have equal rights to economic resources; the archipelago cannot be used for "warlike purposes".

Source: RRI Bengaluru to participate in first winter Indian expedition to Arctic region | Raman Research Institute | Indian Express | Times of India