Opening of the "Nansen House" in St. Petersburg

New offices for the Nansen International Environmental and Remote Sensing Center were opened Friday December 9, 2005 at the Vasilevsky island in St. Petersburg. Consul General of Norway Otto H. Mamelund inaugurated the “Nansen House” and unveiled a bust of Fridtjof Nansen. Fridjof Nansen is still very well-known in Russia for his humanitarian work during the famine.
The Nansen Center in St. Petersburg is an international research foundation employing 30 scientists and PhD-students. Their research foci are related to climate change and processes in the Arctic regions, and in particular Norwegian and Russian Arctic sectors. This region is highly relevant in connection with global warming and the consequences this may have on fisheries, oil- and gas exploration as well as transportation in the Northern Sea Route.
The Nansen International Center in St. Petersburg was founded in 1992, after the initiative of Professor Ola M. Johannessen, who today is the President of the Foundation, with Lasse H. Pettersson as General Secretary, both from the Nansen Center in Bergen and the University of Bergen. The co-founders of the Foundation were represented at the opening, among other the University of Bergen represented by Rector Sigmund Grønmo and Director General Kåre Rommetveit. The "Nansen House" in St. Petersburg is funded by grants from the University of Bergen, UNIFOB AS, the Norwegian Research Council, Sigvald Bergesen og kone Nanki´s Allmennyttigestiftelse in addition to contribution from the Nansen Center in Bergen.
Ola M. Johannessen gave the opening lecture with an overview of the foundations research activities over the last 14 years. Much of the climate research was assembled in the project “Climate and Environmental Change in the Arctic-CECA”, which recently was rewarded with the prestigious EU Descartes prize for excellence in scientific collaborative research. The CECA team consists of the Nansen Centers in Bergen, project leader Ola M. Johannessen, and St. Petersburg, Director Leonid P. Bobylev and the Max-Planck Institute of Meteorology in Hamburg, Professor Lennart Bengtsson. The main conclusions from the CECA project shows that the Arctic sea ice cover is reduced by 3% per decade from the 1970s and simulations with global climate models indicate that the sea ice in the Arctic will disappear during summer with a doubling of the CO2-emissions, which probably will happen by the end of this century. Furthermore, the low pressure systems will increase in intensity with increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases, and consequently the weather in northern Europe and Norway will be warmer, wetter and wilder (www). It is also shown in CECA that the Greenland Ice Sheet increased from 1992 by 6 cm/year above 1500 meters above sea-level due to increased precipitation (snow) during winter - the Greenland Ice Sheet is a wildcard in the climate system. Increased melting of its ice sheet in the future will influence the oceanic circulation and potentially lead to a reduced Gulf Stream on a temporal scale of several hundreds years. The Gulf Stream "heats" today Europe with 6°C compared to the mean zonal average temperatures. These climate variations will have enormous consequences for fisheries, oil- and gas exploration and transportation at sea. The Descartes award money will be spent on further education of young Russian PhD-students – which was well received during the opening day.

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