Investment Portal of the Arctic Zone of the Russian Federation

World Meteorologist Day in the Arctic: Monitoring the Weather along the NSR

Polar predictions from recluses and robots

23 march 2024

World Meteorologist Day is celebrated on March 23 by 187 countries and 6 territories. In 1950, the World Meteorological Organization was established on this day, uniting scientists, weather control station staff, laboratory workers, and observatory personnel. The holiday itself was initiated in 1961. To celebrate, meteorologists convene for round tables and symposiums, and conduct lectures and other educational events. In the Polar Region, for employees of remote stations, this professional holiday is an opportunity to open a bottle of champagne saved from the last supply delivery.

In the Arctic, meteorology is considered the queen of sciences, the ruler of communication routes, and the mastermind behind every thoughtful action. The unpredictable and hazardous weather in the Polar region can bring stormy winds, severe cold, dense fogs and, according to recent data, 40-meter megawaves (which are only five meters shorter than a 15-story building). As the Northern Sea Route develops, Russian Arctic meteorology is also evolving, becoming increasingly more technologically advanced and precise.

In the 20th century, Arctic weather stations were the sole reliable method for collecting data on weather changes in the Arctic Circle. Weather forecasting is based on statistical and mathematical models that require a substantial amount of information. This task was carried out by numerous enthusiasts, ready to face the North alone at the edge of the ecumene. In the mid-1980s, the Soviet network of meteorological stations comprised 110 points, conducting aerological, actinometric, and hydrological research. Drifting platforms were also operational in the ocean, with ship crews and, when possible, all polar expeditions attempting to conduct observations. This data was crucial for the Northern Sea Route — even a nuclear-powered icebreaker could encounter difficulties, not to mention less equipped vessels. Despite the fact that since the 1970s a sea voyage through the Russian Arctic cannot be considered a dangerous expedition, the Northern Sea Route was still far from being an international transport corridor in the last century. During the Soviet era, regular service in the Arctic from Murmansk to Vladivostok was more of an aspirational future than a reality.

The life of a meteorologist at that time was filled with challenges and hardships. Observation points were located in inaccessible places, where provisions and fuel were delivered at best semiannually. In addition to making observations, meteorologists were responsible for maintaining the stations, managing domestic affairs, and conducting routine repairs. Today, this heroic aspect of the profession remains, although Russia is primarily focusing on satellites and automated surveillance systems. In the future, data from the space group monitoring the Northern Sea Route in real time will be transmitted to an "ice navigator", which will display the trajectory of large ice movements, dangerous waves, currents, and even port loading during the ship's journey. Spacecraft use a combined system of optical observation in various spectra and radar, which is particularly useful in dense cloud conditions. In addition to satellites, it includes onboard measurement systems, data from drones, and even artificial intelligence. According to Maxim Kulinko, the administrator of the federal project Development of the Northern Sea Route, the outcome of the work will be automatically plotted routes similar to those provided by Yandex Navigator. In addition to the space component, meteorologists now have access to a growing system of automated buoys. These allow for highly accurate forecasts to be made almost in real time. Atmospheric temperature and pressure, snow cover thickness, and ice movement direction are transmitted via satellite every hour along the entire route. What the electronic eye in the sky misses is supplemented by robots in the sea waves.  

As part of the new system, meteorologists no longer need to spend years isolated somewhere on the coast of the Laptev Sea, but will directly study and systematize the obtained data. Of course, fixed observation points still exist, but the need for such labor-intensive work is decreasing. The main bulk of data is transmitted to monitoring centers where, in warmth and comfort, modern meteorologists perform their magic. They calculate the probabilities of weather phenomena developing, creating those very weather forecasts. Monitoring centers along the Northern Sea Route service the entire route, sending "alerts" to consumers in case of severe weather conditions. In the Arctic, this is a fairly frequent occurrence.

The heroic conquest of the Arctic in the 21st century is becoming a thing of the past — the development of the AZRF and the NSR allows for a significant reduction in risks for all Arctic inhabitants. Instead of people, automatic buoys suffer in the cold waters of the Arctic Ocean, and meteorological stations are mainly staffed by ideological "adventurers". By the way, this contrast will soon be seen live on movie screens — filming has begun in Arkhangelsk for the movie Women's Right to the Sea, dedicated to Arctic explorers. One of the film's heroines is Irina Rusinova, a meteorologist and the first female Soviet explorer of the Arctic Circle. She spent several winters above the Polar Circle, including on Novaya Zemlya in 1921. Her story runs parallel to the story of Ekaterina Zotova, a scientist and popularizer of science working in the Far North. It is through such examples that we can see the contrast in the destinies of the "weather masters", as well as the journey our country has been through in Arctic exploration over the past century.


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