Khibiny 2012 Brief: What makes the Arctic an amazing place to live in?

The Arctic autumn runs by as a jackrabbit. It tries to stay alive for sometime moving from the desperate last days of summer to the encroaching advances of the long winter. In fewer than 3 weeks the surrounding landscapes will change from summer’s green blanket through an orange-red-yellow-rust palette to grey and white snow-capped scenery.

This year we have had an amazing Indian Summer, and this reprieve has provided a great opportunity to stop and try to refresh our minds.

Golden autumn in Khibiny Mountains (photo by V.Zhiganov)

As many of you know, the Arctic can be HOT! And the “hottest” season at Khibiny station is summer. This year we hosted several student field training courses on geomorphology, meteorology and nature management. More importantly, together with 2 groups of scientists from Austria and Finland and support from the INTERACT team, we continued to push forward out understanding of the Arctic.

Our first INTERACT user group was the team from the Institute of Mountain Risk Engineering, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU) from Vienna, Austria. Sven and Tatiana tried to find out more about risk management for mountain hazards. Their project (ARCTICRISK) will increase knowledge on risk trajectories, which in turn will be transferable to other mountain regions of Europe with less-clearly defined system boundaries. But you may ask, why exactly are they working in the Khibiny Mountains? Well, Khibiny has a unique location in the Low Arctic area and therefore has a set of unique conditions that cannot be observed elsewhere; more specifically, together with its location, intense mining and tourist activity, the Khibiny Mountains have  very special snow cover formations and thus a unique avalanche regime.

This summer’s second group was from the University of Turku, Finland. Mikhail and Vitaliy (IHALP team) aimed to monitor the amount of woody plants being consumed by animals along altitudinal transects in the mountains of the Kola Peninsula and thereby assess the potential effects of climate on losses of plant biomass due to insects. Although there are many mosquitoes, the Arctic does not have very diverse insect life. Nevertheless, similar to lower latitudes, insects and plants are interdependent, but in the Arctic the relationships may differ in their interactions. As climate has and will change faster in the Arctic than in the rest of the globe, it is crucially important to understand these connections!

IHALP team is ready for new discoveries and arctic weather surprises (photo by M.Kozlov)

Working together with international and interdisciplinary teams of scientists is always great pleasure. And it can bring some unexpected bonuses, too – whether it be new knowledge, new friends, new books for the station’s library, or a new bottle of apricot schnaps :).

As our “hot” training and scientific period has passed, we will be concentrating on the administrative side of our work. It will be a long winter as always, and yet there are plans to implement. As the central heating comes on (for almost 9 months, in fact!), we should get back to writing papers and reports, developing new scientific plans, maintaining the station (all 2000 m2 of rooms/offices/library/laboratories!), continue snow cover and weather observations to keep databases ceaseless, and much more!

But to get back my main point: it is amazing to live in a place where I can see the fastest season changing ever, experience climate change echos in situ, explore scientific diversity of the Arctic with international teams of experts, and now jump into the long polar night to see amazing Northern lights, snowstorms, and know that I am a part of something big and important!

The inevitable return of the Northern Light (photo by V.Zhiganov)

Keep warm and take care,

Yulia Zaika

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2 Replies to “Khibiny 2012 Brief: What makes the Arctic an amazing place to live in?”

  1. Participants in a graduate course on Arctic Women’s Narratives (GLST653) at Athabasca University, Athabasca, Alberta, Canada are contrasting Arctic women’s working conditions from the time of Elizabeth Marsden in mid-nineteenth century and Ruth Gruber in the 1940s to today. Your page is particularly useful for glimpses of current conditions for scientific research. We’d be eager to hear about your accommodation and work/holiday schedule. What do you do for recreation and fun?

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