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Director's Message

Sixty years have passed since the International Geophysical Year (IGY) scientific project was conducted between 1957-1958, and since the First Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE) was deployed 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. Recent research into Earth’s environmental changes and global warming has progressed. Japan’s research of the Antarctic and Arctic regions is now more relevant than before. Therefore Japan should continue with its observation and research of the Antarctic and Arctic regions. 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's continuous contributions benefit 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 conducts 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 affecting the global environment, it is also affecting the Earth’s ecosystems along with the economic and political activities in countries surrounding the Arctic region, including Japan. Looking southward at the Antarctic continent, with tenfold the ice content than the Arctic region, has also begun to display signs of change. Should the region’s ice sheets begin to melt, the resulting sea-level rise could exceed tens of meters, and would severely affect human living environments. Thus, the comprehensive monitoring of both polar regions is an urgent matter for all mankind around the globe.

Furthermore, investigations into paleo-climates such as the glacial-interglacial cycle, with periods of tens of thousands of years, and eras with exceedingly high carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, can be expected to provide very useful information for predicting the Earth’s future environmental conditions. Therefore, it is of great import to study oceanic, ice-sheet, terrain, geological, and atmospheric variations in the Arctic and Antarctic regions from multiple 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, polar regions provide the best locations for observing the effects of solar flares on our lives and society. In addition, the extremely low temperatures and the low humidity of those regions allow us to observe space using various electromagnetic spectra such as infrared and radio wave spectra.

Owing to of recent technological developments, our observations and analysis have advanced significantly. These technological advancements have resulted in an increase of data collected from polar regions. Fortunately, NIPR belongs to ROIS, which unconditionally promotes and supports 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 systems revealed by Antarctic observations’, and executing the Arctic region research project, entitled ‘Arctic Challenge for Sustainability (ArCS) (2015-2020)’.

Through these and various other efforts, we believe NIPR has a special role to play as the only institute in Japan that comprehensively pursues observations and research efforts in both the 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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