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Scientists create ‘virtual Arctic’ to monitor impact of humans on frozen environment

By The Siberian Times reporter
17 December 2014

Hi-tech project would use computer models to predict climate change and help with safe production of oil and gas in Northern Russia.

The Digital Smart Arctic will simulate realistic processes taking place in the environment and predict any problems linked to mining and drilling for oil and gas. Picture: Sergey Anisimov

A hi-tech virtual Arctic is being created by Siberian scientists to predict climate change and monitor the impact of mining and oil production on the roof of the world.

The frozen northern region is thought to be rich with natural resources, particularly oil and gas, and a number of countries including Russia plan exploiting untapped reserves.

However, environmentalists have expressed concerns about the possible knock-on effect of industrialisation and pollution.

But a new computer project being developed by experts at the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Science will help answer many of the questions. The Digital Smart Arctic will simulate realistic processes taking place in the environment and predict any problems linked to mining and drilling for oil and gas.

It will also be able to model complex safety systems, analyse pollution sources and their impact, study volcanic activity in the area and look at the climate of the Arctic basin.

Being designed at the RAS Institute of Computational Mathematics and Mathematical Geophysics (ICM&MG), it will be able to make predictions decades in advance.

A presentation on the project was given to scientists in Moscow by Sergey Kabanikhin, the deputy head of the ICM&MG.

Virtual model of Arctic


Virtual model of Arctic

The information will be incorporated into models mimicking processes in the Arctic to monitor and predict any changes in the environment. Pictures: Sergey Anisimov, Arctica Info

While it will have many uses, including being able to monitor global weather patterns and natural disasters, it will be of particular interest in the safe development of oil and gas.

The system will be able to incorporate data from a number of satellites and land stations across Europe, Siberia and the Russian Far East.

That information will then be incorporated into models mimicking processes in the Arctic to monitor and predict any changes in the environment.

Data on what is happening in Northern Russia will be given special emphasis with patterns used to create both short-term and long-term economic planning, for agriculture, mining and the development of transport infrastructure.

According to Kabanikhin it will be vital in mapping pollution in the Arctic once the excavation of oil and gas is under way, since there will be burning flare stacks in place.

The experts would be able to look at the impact of petrocarbohydrate pollution in the same way that analysis has taken place for polyaerosol nickel compounds in Norilsk.

The exploration of the Arctic for oil and gas reserves is considered more technically challenging than in any environment so far as a result of the cold and ice.

In 2008, a US Geological Survey found that areas north of the Arctic Circle have about 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil. Russia is eager to develop the frozen region with a new oil field discovered in October christened 'Pobeda', meaning victory.

Meanwhile scientists believe there is a need to establish a Situational Analysis Centre for the Arctic, based on the Siberian supercomputer centre of the RAS and the data centre of Novosibirsk State University.

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