The world listens to Zackenberg

Press releases 2010

The National Environmental Research Institute produces interesting research results about climate change at the Zackenberg Research Station in Northeast Greenland.

Just as the frost sets in, the earth emits a gigantic blob of methane gas in Northeast Greenland, a type of gas that has considerable influence on climate change in the Arctic. Researchers at Zackenberg have published this discovery in the renowned journal Nature, and this is not the first time results from the small research station in uninhabited Northeast Greenland have led to surprise and worry among the world’s climate experts and decision-makers.
Each year from May to October, thirty scientists work on mapping how climate change is affecting the fragile Arctic ecosystem. The Zackenberg Research Station was established in 1995 in a valley below Zackenberg Mountain – hence the name. The research station is owned by the Greenland Home Rule Government, but the research is managed by the National Environmental Research Institute, Aarhus University.
“In recent years, we’ve built a reputation as one of the leaders within research on the effect of the climate on Arctic ecosystems and the emission of greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. We’ll make sure that we maintain this leadership position and use it to become even better,” says Research Manager Jesper Madsen.
The whole world is interested in the results produced by the researchers at Zackenberg, but they are mainly intended for the Arctic Council, consisting of the Arctic nations. These nations notice climate change in their daily lives, where living conditions for animals, humans and plants have already changed considerably.
“The average annual temperature increased by 2.3 degrees during the period 1991–2005, which has impacted on our work at Zackenberg. Since the beginning of our studies, spring has started arriving two to three weeks early, and autumn arrives later, which means that we have to spend more and more time here to monitor the development in nature,” says Dr Madsen.
In addition to being in charge of climate research, the National Environmental Research Institute also advises the Greenland Home Rule Government on the consequences of natural resource extraction on the environment. Nowadays, offshore oil and gas extraction is high on the agenda. The first oil companies will shortly commence test drilling in the ocean off the coast of West Greenland in areas that have already been thoroughly researched by the National Environmental Research Institute.

Photo: Lars Holst Hansen
PhD student Marcus Chang inspects part of a buoy that automatically measures different parameters in the Langemandssø lake and sends wireless data to the Zackenberg Research Station as part of the MANA project. The purpose of this project is to optimise the collection of data from lakes. During summer, the solar panels recharge the batteries that run the system during the dark winter. Photo: Lars Holst Hansen