Ukraine war means we aren’t getting accurate data on Arctic melting from Russia

International research about the Arctic has had to continue without any data from Russia since the start of the Ukrainian invasion, say researchers from across the northern hemisphere. The team aimed to assess how well Arctic environmental conditions – annual average temperature, total rain, snow depth, soil moisture, vegetation, biomass and soil carbon – are represented without knowledge from Russian stations, and say the war has increased the bias in the collected data.

Journal/conference: Nature Climate Change

Link to research (DOI): 10.1038/s41558-023-01903-1

Organisation/s: Aarhus University, Roskilde, Denmark

Funder: This work was supported by the International Network for Terrestrial
Research and Monitoring in the Arctic (INTERACT,
funded by the European Union’s HORIZON2020 Research and Innovation
programme under grant agreement number 871120. We acknowledge
the World Climate Research Programme, which, through its Working
Group on Coupled Modelling, coordinated and promoted CMIP6.
We thank the climate modelling groups for producing and making
available their model output, the Earth System Grid Federation (ESGF)
for archiving the data and providing access, and the multiple funding
agencies who support CMIP6 and ESGF. We give credit to the Alaska
Geobotany Center for the original Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map
(CAVM). We acknowledge the DEM created by the ArcticDEM project
funded by the Polar Geospatial Center under NSF-OPP awards 1043681,
1559691, 1542736, 1810976 and 2129685. E.L.-B. was supported by the
Greenland Research Council (GRC) grant number 80.35, financed by
the ‘Danish Program for Arctic Research’. E.L.-B. and T.R.C. consider this
study a contribution to GreenFeedBack (greenhouse gas fluxes and Earth
system feedbacks) funded by the European Union’s HORIZON Research
and Innovation programme under grant agreement number 101056921.
H.S. considers this study a contribution to AMAP Core Atmosphere grant
number 2021–60333.

Media release

From: Springer Nature

Exclusion of Russian data on Arctic conditions increases pre-existing bias

Exclusion of data from Russian stations will increase the biases of data collected to map conditions in the Arctic, suggests a paper published in Nature Climate Change. The findings highlight the increasing difficulty in quantifying current and future change in this region.

The Arctic is warming at approximately two to four times the global average rate, with potential global consequences. Understanding Arctic change relies heavily on data measured at research stations on the ground. However, following the invasion of Ukraine, international research has continued without Russia, the geographically largest Arctic nation.

Using model data extracted from INTERACT sites (an international network of Arctic research stations) located above 59° N, excluding the Greenland Ice Sheet, the authors quantified the potential impact of excluding Russian sites on the perception of Arctic change. Efrén López-Blanco and colleagues assessed how well Arctic environmental conditions — annual mean air temperature, total precipitation, snow depth, soil moisture, vegetation biomass, soil carbon, net primary productivity and heterotrophic respiration — are represented with and without knowledge from these Russian stations.

The authors show that model data in the network of stations are biased on some Arctic ecosystem variables, even when all Russian stations are included in the dataset, and that the data are not fully representative of the ecosystem conditions across the pan-Arctic domain. The authors indicate that the bias may be due to the locations of these stations, which are typically located in areas of the Arctic that are typically wetter, warmer, and have deeper snowpacks and lower biomass. However, they indicate that this bias increases further when Russian sites are excluded from the network of Arctic research stations. For example, Siberia’s extensive taiga forest is no longer represented with the exclusion of Russia. For some variables, including precipitation and vegetation biomass, the bias is of a similar magnitude to changes expected owing to climate change by the end of the century.

The authors suggest that their findings indicate a pre-existing gap in the knowledge used to track conditions in the Arctic and highlight that the ability to track and project Arctic change has been further reduced as a result of the Russian attack on Ukraine.


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