Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago to the east of Greenland in the Arctic Ocean, is home to one of the northernmost settlements in the world: Ny-Ålesund. The town itself is essentially the “largest laboratory for modern Arctic research” – consisting of labs and stations operated by eleven countries, it brings together researchers from across the globe, and from different polar research disciplines. Scientists from France and Germany work together at a joint facility in Ny-Ålesund: AWIPEV Base.
AWIPEV Base was founded in 2003, when the Alfred Wegener Institute and the French Polar Institute Paul Emile Victor (IPEV) merged their previously separate stations, Koldewey and Rabot. Today AWIPEV Base offers living quarters and workrooms for many researchers. As the base’s primary focus is on fundamental research in the environmental sciences, its resources include laboratories for physical, biological and chemical experiments; since 2005, the marine laboratory operated by the Norwegian company Kings Bay has also been available for marine biological research.
The centrepiece of the AWI’s research facilities in Ny-Ålesund is the Atmospheric Observatory, which is used to monitor our atmosphere from ground level to the stratosphere. Here, researchers can use a broad range of equipment to identify, measure and record meteorological parameters, radiation data, and the characteristics of aerosols and trace gases in the troposphere and stratosphere, e.g. the ozone concentration. This allows them to keep a close eye on climatic and atmospheric changes in Earth’s polar regions.
On Svalbard, biologists investigate e.g. how higher levels of UV radiation are affecting sea life in the fjords, and how these organisms are responding to increasing ocean acidification, while geoscientists focus more on permafrost soils and changes in glacier systems. Researchers also use AWIPEV as a logistical base for expeditions in the vicinity of Ny-Ålesund and West Svalbard.