Press release archive: 2012

The Arctic region offers opportunities for Finnish know-how

12.3.2012 7:38

Climate change has a major impact on the Arctic region's development Domestic and international cooperation provide opportunities for various actors.

Photo: Eija Vallinheimo

Photo: Eija Vallinheimo

Owing to global warming, the Northern sea routes are gradually opening for commercial traffic. Increased marine transports in the Arctic Ocean and exploitation of the natural resources in the area are also an opportunity for Finnish know-how. The Finnish Meteorological Institute offers various ice, weather and marine services that benefit transports in the area.

New vistas for multi-purpose icebreakers

Arctia Shipping Ltd has chartered out its multi-purpose icebreakers Fennica and Nordica to Shell Offshore for three summer months. They will operate in the Beaufort Sea and the Chukchi Sea.

“Our vessels were chartered specifically to ensure that the circumstances for operations are safe,” says CEO Tero Vauraste of Arctia Shipping Ltd.

The three-year contract, valued at tens of millions of euros, will bring work to some 150 shipping professionals. This means that ship investments will be in efficient, year-round use. Operations in the Arctic region have attracted great international interest.

“Naturally we share the concern that the local population and environmental organisations have for the state of the Arctic environment. Among other things, we participate in the work done by the Arctic Council to prevent oil spills,” Vauraste says.

Arctia’s vessels have sailed in the waters of, for instance, Alaska and Greenland on previous occasions, too.

Sea ice thickness determined by means of satellite data

According to estimates, at its smallest the average ice cover on the Arctic Ocean measured 4.5 million square kilometres in 2011. This is the second lowest figure since the 1970s, when these measurements began.

“The reduction is in line with global warming,” says Jari Haapala, Head of Group at the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

Satellites are the only possible means of monitoring ice conditions in large marine areas almost in real-time. Aside from the area covered, the amount of sea ice depends on ice thickness. To determine the thickness of ice cover, the Finnish Meteorological Institute uses and develops various remote sensing methods for image-producing synthetic aperture radars (SAR), radiometers operating in optical wavelengths, and altimeters.

“Measuring the thickness of sea ice is more challenging than measuring the area of the ice cover. Different instruments work best for different ice types. The same satellite cannot measure both thin, new ice and ice that has grown several metres thick over many years,” says Research Scientist Eero Rinne of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. Examples of ice thicknesses measured in a variety of ways are available from the Baltic Sea, the Kara Sea and from the whole Northern Hemisphere.

Environmental observation in the Arctic areas

The Finnish Meteorological Institute uses satellite-based radar data for the remote sensing of snow cover in Northern regions and ice cover in the Baltic Sea. “Owing to global warming and the shrinking ice cover, remote sensing of the ice cover in Arctic marine areas will become increasingly important in the future,” says Research Scientist Jyri Heilimo of the Finnish Meteorological Institute.

The Institute’s international satellite reception station in Sodankylä receives and processes measurement data from several satellites observing the environment. Measurement data are provided for meteorologists and atmospheric ozone research. The new satellite dish with a diameter of 7.3 metres can receive measurement data from modern research satellites designed to measure land surface and sea areas irrespective of the weather and cloudiness.

During the past hundred years, mean temperatures in the Arctic areas have risen nearly twice as much as the global mean temperature.

Additional information:

Tero Vauraste, CEO, Arctia Shipping, tel. +358 46 876 7100
Jari Haapala, Senior Research Scientist, Finnish Meteorological Institute tel. +358 9 1929 6406
Eero Rinne, Research Scientist, Finnish Meteorological Institute tel. +358 50 448 7681
Jyri Heilimo, Research Scientist, Finnish Meteorological Institute tel. +358 50 568 0802