The Arctic is one of the world’s most rapidly changing environments and is a key element in our understanding of the risks we face from climate change in the future. The challenge of studying such a large regional scale requires scientists and institutions from around the world to work together.

The NERC Arctic Research Programme (or ARP) was launched in 2010 to address specific topics of scientific uncertainty in the Arctic region and is co-ordinated and managed at NERC’s British Antarctic Survey. The £15m research effort is working over a five-year period to address key questions about what is behind the environmental changes occurring in the Arctic and how they can impact on levels of greenhouse gas and influence extreme weather events in the future.

From an increased understanding of what is happening in the Arctic now the programme will be better placed to reduce the substantial uncertainties present in current climate modelling and allow for more accurate predictions of what will happen in the future.

The scale of the problems and questions encountered by scientists in the Arctic is such that a co-ordinated international research effort is vital. The ARP will be contributing to major international programmes such as the Arctic Climate Science Network (ACSNet), and has partnerships and collaborations with universities around the world to allow the programme to harness a global set of expertise and know-how.

While fostering international collaboration, the ARP also significantly advances the UK’s own research capability in the Arctic. Better interpretation of cutting-edge climate science and its implications will benefit organisations such as the UK Met Office, where internationally recognised climate models are developed and maintained. Close collaboration with the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) facilitates more effective development of UK government policy relating to economic priorities like food and energy security.

The programme is also likely to contribute guidance to UK industry regarding future environmental conditions and challenges in the Arctic. Please see the Business section for further details.

Dr Cynan Ellis-Evans, ARP co-ordinator, said: "The Arctic is a critical area for understanding the nature and likely consequences of global warming and environmental change. The ARP is the largest research effort ever made by the NERC in the region and aims to establish the UK as a highly capable contributor to Arctic science."

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Image credits: British Antarctic Survey.