Two Poles: Indian Scientists Take on Antarctica and the Arctic

Two Poles: Indian Scientists Take on Antarctica and the Arctic

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Way up in Tromsø, a city in Northern Norway, two Indian scientists are studying the future of the planet. Ankit Pramanik and Vikram Goel moved there a couple of years ago to complete their PhDs at the Norwegian Polar Institute.

Pramanik studies glaciers in the northern Svalbard archipelago. Goel, on the other hand, studies the opposite end of the world – Antarctica. Both were funded by the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences, as part of a collaboration with the Norwegian government.

Goel during his safety training in Antarctica. (Photo Courtesy: Norwegian Polar Institute/Ørjan Carlsen)
Goel during his safety training in Antarctica. (Photo Courtesy: Norwegian Polar Institute/Ørjan Carlsen)

Arctic Changes

As global temperatures rise, glaciers in the Arctic are melting rapidly. For the past few years, Pramanik has observed how this melting changes the ecosystem as the freshwater of Svalbard’s glaciers mixes in with the salty water of the surrounding seas.

He follows the path of the glacier water as it makes its way through the water channels around the islands. The salt and fresh water mix makes a perfect ecosystem for algae and plankton blooms, which draws fish and seals, so these ecosystems tend to be very lively and diverse.

Pramanik hopes to take the knowledge he is gaining in Norway back to India one day. He wants to study both regions.

The climate in the Arctic and the Himalayas is different, but the basic physics of glaciers is not very different.
Ankit Pramanik, PhD Student at the Norwegian Polar Institute
Pramanik at a research site in Svalbard. (Photo Courtesy: Norwegian Polar Institute)
Pramanik at a research site in Svalbard. (Photo Courtesy: Norwegian Polar Institute)

Antarctica Disappears

On the other side of the world, a similar phenomenon is occurring. Glaciers that cover Antarctica are rapidly melting. But small features of the landscape – rises – are holding back some of the glaciers. Goel is studying how these rises affect the rate at which glaciers slip into the surrounding ocean.

(Image courtesy: Norwegian Polar Institute/Reinhard Drews)
(Image courtesy: Norwegian Polar Institute/Reinhard Drews)

Though Antarctica is at the bottom of the world, the region is critical for the whole planet. If all the ice in the Antarctic region, which Goel is studying, melts, sea levels could rise by 6-8 metres, he says. The whole Antarctic holds almost 70 percent of the world’s fresh water, and could raise sea levels by 60 metres if all of its glaciers melt.

Glaciers in general are very good indicators of climate change. It is important to understand how they will behave in the future.
Vikram Goel, PhD Student at the Norwegian Polar Institute

Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam

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