The Arctic Ocean has received increasing global attention, partly due to major changes in the extent and thickness of the sea ice. Repeatedly, new minimums in sea ice extent have been reported in September during the last decades. These changes can contribute to increased accessibility and therefore new opportunities for utilization of natural resources, energy and sailing routes such as the Northern Sea Route (NSR). Increasing presence, leads to new opportunities, challenges, and knowledge needs. Increased use of the NSR by international shipping are hampered by both market and regulatory conditions and available knowledge and infrastructure. Russia is making major investments to attract international shipping for transit operations between Europe and Asia. The Arctic Ocean covers large inaccessible and remotely located areas with limited developed infrastructure, and hence particular operations have high demands for information and quality forecast. The use of Earth observation satellites to monitor the Arctic Ocean is therefore important for the availability of necessary information about the sea ice and the conditions of operations.
The main objective of ARCONOR was to develop long-term international cooperation between research institutions in Norway, Russia, India, China and the USA to promote research, education and recruitment in the field of Earth observation satellites to improve the knowledge base for marine and maritime surveillance and forecasting in the Arctic.
ARCONOR has organized exchange visits for researchers and students between the participating institutions and beyond. The project has organized three international research schools in respectively in Norway (Svalbard), India and Russia. One planned research school in China had to be cancelled due to Covid restrictions. The collaboration has contributed to the exchange of knowledge and skills development between the partners and other relevant institutions and included in university training courses. The ARCONOR research schools have been arranged in collaboration with the Horizon 2020 research project INTAROS, the Nansen Centers in Norway, India, Russia and China, the Nansen Scientific Society, the Norwegian Scientific Academy for Polar Research, and the local host institutions. During the project, the collaboration has been expanded to include the polar research institute in South Korea.
ARCONOR has contributed to a total of 13 chapters published in scientific books, of which nine in the book Sea Ice in The Arctic - past, present and future. Participants in the research schools, the ARCONOR doctoral students and project staff from all collaborating partners have contributed to 17 scientific articles published in peer-reviewed journals. In connection with the sea level minimum in September, ARCONOR has published information that has been communicated in media news and reports. A dozen other dissemination measures have been implemented to make awareness about the sea ice conditions in the Arctic Ocean. The three dedicated ARCONOR PhD students are expected to have defended their dissertations by end 2022, including one in 2021. In total, close to 90 students have participated in the three ARCONOR research schools and close to 50 lecturers have contributed with lectures and new interdisciplinary teaching material relevant to the use of Earth observation data contributing to safeguarding operations in the Arctic Ocean.
The Arctic Ocean has obtained increased international attention due to decreasing sea ice conditions facilitating the accessibility, as well as the exploitation of its natural resources (minerals, oil and gas & fisheries), energy, and new seasonal & year around sailing routes that are creating new challenges and opportunities. Although transportation into, within and/or through the Arctic waters has been on the agenda for several decades, the Arctic is not yet an arena for large-scale international marine transportation. Integrated research and education related to the Arctic Ocean is needed in order to maintain expertise for future use of the region. Satellite Earth Observation techniques are crucial for monitoring of the waste areas of in accessible and remotely located sea ice and oceans of the Arctic, including input to sea ice prediction. The on-going research in SONARC & IceMotion projects contributes to develop both research and education in this respect. Europe has through the Copernicus program established and is developing a system for sustainable use of satellite EO for environmental and climate monitoring and contribution to forecasting, also covering the Arctic Ocean. Norway, Russia and US are among the Arctic five nations with direct exclusive economic zones and interests in the Arctic. India and China have both an expressed interest and increased presentence in the Arctic, including expressed research and educational expertise and ambitions.
Accordingly the need to devolve and integrated multi-disciplinary curriculum on Shipping in the Arctic is timely and needed. ARCONOR will capitalize on the existing and develop new research and educational cooperation between partners in Norway, Russia, India, China and US in order to jointly develop such a curriculum to be implemented at UNIS, Svalbard and other Universities in the cooperation, e.g. St. Petersburg State University. ARCONOR will also implement student, scientists and guest lecture exchange visits.