A new China-Iceland Arctic science observatory is already expanding its focus - Arctic Today (31/10/2018)
It began as an aurora observatory — a place to improve atmospheric observations and space science in northern Iceland, at a rural outpost an hour or so from Akureyri. But it soon became a much more ambitious Arctic research facility.
In invitations to the recent grand opening, the facility was called the China-Iceland Joint Aurora Observatory. But by the time Chinese and Icelandic officials unveiled the three-story facility last week in a public ceremony, its name had morphed into the China-Iceland Joint Arctic Science Observatory (though the acronym remained CIAO).
The facility will expand its focus to climate change, satellite remote sensing, geosciences, oceanography, fisheries and more, officials said.
“China is highly concerned [about] Arctic changes and its global consequences,” said Dr. Huigen Yang, the director of the Polar Research Institute of China, which partnered with Iceland to create the observatory. He sees this scientific outpost as an opportunity to learn more about all aspects of the Arctic environment, not just space.
It is yet another indication of China’s growing interest in the region — and the significant investments it is prepared to make.
“We would never, ever, have been close to having anything like this without their cooperation,” said Halldor Johannsson, vice-chair of the observatory. “They have basically paid for all of it.”
He pointed out that although Iceland is known for its northern lights, the country only has a handful of scientists who focus on aurora research.
CIAO will change all of that, its founders hope.
The land upon which it is built belongs to an Icelandic nonprofit called Aurora Observatory. A farmhouse nearby can house up to eight researchers at a time.
The observatory itself is nearly finished; the exterior will be wrapped in gold-colored panels, and the first floor will host a museum to attract the 500,000 tourists who drive through this region every summer.
The observatory is in a remote region in Iceland’s north.