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Director's Message

Sixty years have passed since the International Geophysical Year (IGY) scientific project was carried out in 1957-1958, and since the First Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE) was sent to the Antarctic. It has also been a quarter of a century since Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research (NIPR) opened its Arctic research station in Svalbard, Norway. More recently, observations and research on the Antarctic and Arctic regions have become increasingly important due to the progress of investigations into Earth’s environmental changes and global warming. Founded in 1973, NIPR is an inter-university research institute that conducts comprehensive scientific research and observations in the polar regions. As one of the four institutes constituting the Research Organization of Information and Systems (ROIS), NIPR is making ongoing contributions to the enhancement of research universities across the country. However, since our research targets global issues, with an emphasis on the polar regions, international cooperation is a key component to fulfilling our mission. Currently, NIPR is conducting observations and research with other countries under the frameworks of various academic organizations such as the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), and the Scientific Committee on Solar-Terrestrial Physics (SCOSTEP) under the International Science Council (ICSU), thereby helping to hone the cutting edge of the world’s pursuit of science.

The recent rapid decrease of the Arctic sea ice cover is not only impacting the appearance of global environmental change, it is also affecting the Earth’s ecosystems as well as the economic and political activities in many countries surrounding the Arctic region, including Japan. Looking southward, the Antarctic continent, with ten times more ice content than the Arctic region, has also started to change. Should the region’s huge ice sheets start to melt, the resulting sea-level rises could reach tens of meters, and would severely affect human living environments. Thus, the comprehensive monitoring of both polar regions is an urgent matter for all human beings.

Furthermore, investigations into paleo-climates such as the glacial-interglacial cycle, with periods of tens of thousands of years, and eras with very high carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, can be expected to provide very useful information for predicting the Earth’s future environmental conditions. Therefore, it is very important to study oceanic, ice-sheet, landscape, geology, and atmosphere variations in the Arctic and Antarctic regions from different aspects.

At the same time, it is also important to note that the Arctic and the Antarctic regions provide windows into both geo-space and deep space. For example, since the high energy particles emitted by solar flares from the sun precipitate along the magnetic fields into the polar regions, those regions provide the best locations for observing the effects of solar flares on our lives and society. In addition, the very low temperature and humidity of those regions allows us to observe space using various electromagnetic spectra such as infrared and radio wave spectra.

Because of recent technological developments, our observations and analysis have advanced significantly, and since the value of our data collected from polar regions has drastically increased, and it is very fortunate that NIPR belongs to ROIS, which strongly promotes data science. In 2017, the Polar Environment Data Science Center (PEDSC) was established under the Joint-Support-Center for Data Science Research of ROIS. Together with PEDSC, NIPR promotes collaborative research efforts using observational and sample data from the polar regions. We are also engaged in carrying out the IX term JARE (2016-22) mission, with a special emphasis on ‘Variations of global system revealed by Antarctic observations’, and executing the Arctic region research project, entitled ‘Arctic Challenge for Sustainability (ArCS) (2015-2020)’.

Through these and many other efforts, we believe NIPR has a special role to play as the only institute in Japan that comprehensively pursues observations and research effort in both Antarctic and Arctic regions. We appreciate your continuous support for all NIPR research activities.

Dr. Takuji NAKAMURA
Director-General, National Institute of Polar Research

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