Returning to the Nansen Center - Reflections from a newly appointed director

The Nansen Center is in these days moving 300 meters across Nygårdsparken and into the refurbished floors of the East Wing of the iconic Geophysical Institute building. For me the journey is even shorter, only a few steps across the courtyard from the West Wing, from where I have been coordinating the Bjerknes Centre for some time. With this journey, it feels like I am coming home – in several ways.

Tore Furevik in front of the new home of the Nansen Center at Jahnebakken 3. Photo: NansensenteretTore Furevik in front of the new home of the Nansen Center at Jahnebakken 3. Photo: Nansensenteret

I started my studies in Bergen in 1990, after a year in the coast guard where I was lucky to make several trips to Svalbard and the marginal ice zone in the north, and also to travel by boat all the way to the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf in the southern Weddell Sea and back as part of a Norwegian Antarctic Research Expedition. This triggered my lifelong passion for the ocean and the polar regions. In the southern Weddell Sea, I assisted a group of oceanographers from Bergen with CTDs and moorings. This of course took me to the Geophysical Institute, where I completed my Master and PhD degrees, supervised by Professor Arne Foldvik who was in charge of the oceanographic measurements in Antarctica.   

When I now start at the Nansen Center, I return to the same floors where I spent my first years as a student, sharing an office and coffee machine with Siri Kalvig, Lars Henrik Smedsrud and Paul Skeie, and also a year in an associate professor vicariate right after my PhD. In 1999, I got a post doc position in the nationally coordinated climate project RegClim, shared between the Nansen Center and the Geophysical Institute. For me this was a perfect opportunity, learning to work with both ocean and atmosphere models, to analyse large data sets from models and observations, and to understand how the different components in the climate system could interact and cause large fluctuations in climate.

Under the leadership of Helge Drange, I enjoyed a vibrant working environment with strong international visibility as a part of the climate group at the Nansen Center. The group included younger versions of Mats Bentsen and Odd Helge Otterå (NORCE), Anne Britt Sandø and Jan Even Øie Nilsen (Institute of Marine Research), Yongqi Gao and Kjetil Lygre (Nansen Center), to mention a few. Together with colleagues at the Geophysical Institute, we developed Norway’s first coupled climate model, which delivered data to the fourth assessment report of the IPCC – the one that got the Nobel Peace Prize – and we published a large number of research papers.  

Another legacy from my previous years at the Nansen Center, is my long-term relationship with China. Since my first trip to Beijing in 2001, I have visited the Middle Kingdom close to 30 times, usually together with my very good friend Yongqi Gao. We have coordinated several joint projects, many including student mobility, and organised a series of summer schools. It has been interesting to see how amazingly fast the country has developed over these years, and how their scientific skills and capacity have surpassed most countries in the west. Many Chinese employees at the Nansen Center, NORCE and Geophysical Institute, are the result of this collaboration.

In 2001, I became an associate professor at the Geophysical Institute and a few years later a professor. This was the time when the newly established Bjerknes Centre developed into a major national and international research community under the leadership of Eystein Jansen. I was gradually more and more involved, first as a research group leader, then deputy director and finally, from January 2014, the director. With funding secured for five more years in 2020, it was time to do something new, and with the Nansen Center looking for their new director, it was an easy choice to make.

I am very happy to be back at the Nansen Center after 20 years “in exile”, and to be part of the team of scientists at the international forefront and the very professional administrative staff. The decade we have entered will be crucial for the global society, with the UN 2030 agenda, the Decade of Ocean Science, the implementation of the Paris agreement, and the many European, national, and local targets. Funding is becoming more mission-driven, and the stakeholders depend on, and also expect, that our Center will provide science-based knowledge and advice on how to navigate the uncharted waters we are heading for.  

This is a good time to start a process where we revise our strategies, so they better reflect how the landscape is changing around us. We will be even more visible on the national scene, and a preferred research partner for a variety of public and private bodies. The co-location with our closest allies, the Geophysical Institute, NORCE, the Bjerknes Centre, and the Meteorological Institute, gives opportunities for even more collaboration. We will grab these with both hands, but also make sure that we preserve the unique Nansen spirit and the positive and vibrant working environment we are known for. I am excited about being part of this and optimistic about the future!

 Tore Furevik: Director, Nansen Center. Photo: NansensenteretTore Furevik: Director, Nansen Center. Photo: Nansensenteret

Add comment

Login to post comments