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Missing Russian data hinders scientists' ability to understand changing Arctic: 'The data is quite limited, unfortunately'

The situation is particularly concerning because Russia accounts for nearly half of the land in the Arctic.

The situation is particularly concerning because Russia accounts for nearly half of the land in the Arctic.

Photo Credit: iStock

Climate scientists say they are lacking important data about the changes happening in Russia's Arctic region, which is harming research at a critical time.

What's happening?

After Russia invaded Ukraine, collaboration between the country's climate scientists and outsiders screeched to a halt, as reported by Scientific American. Russia has also barred most foreign researchers from accessing its field stations.

A group of climate scientists demonstrated the challenges they are facing in a recent paper, published in Nature Climate Change, which assessed how well eight ecosystem variables, like temperature and snow depth, could be represented across the Arctic from 2016 to 2020 and from 2096 to 2100. They created models both with and without the inclusion of 17 Russian stations. 

The group pinpointed some knowledge gaps across the entire Arctic region, even with the Russian data included.

"Basically, it takes quite a lot of effort to gather information in harsh, remote environments, so the data is quite limited, unfortunately," lead author Efrén López-Blanco told Scientific American. "We don't have coordinated or standardized data sets across the entire region."

However, excluding the data from Russian stations made the situation worse, as biases significantly increased in key ecosystem variables.

"The biases in the numbers that depict the Arctic's climate after subtracting the Russian data could be as dramatic as the effects that climate change itself is expect(ed) to cause by 2100," the publication reported.

Why is the news concerning?

Russia accounts for nearly half of the land in the Arctic. If the trend of missing data continues, scientific understanding of the region will "significantly deteriorate," according to Scientific American.

This comes at a crucial time. Across the globe, populations are already facing the consequences of a warming planet. 

For instance, the Amazon is suffering from extreme drought because of a lack of rain, heat waves, and warmer-than-average temperatures. California recently endured a series of atmospheric rivers that pummeled the state with rain. This left many residents without power and caused major flooding and mudslides.

While severe weather is nothing new, scientists agree that a heating planet increases the severity and intensity of these types of storms.

What can I do about our warming world?

Everyday actions make a difference. Vote for pro-environment political candidates who will fight for climate action. You can also keep the pressure on elected officials by contacting their office and hold corporations accountable by supporting brands that have eco-friendly policies.

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