Complications from the global COVID-19 pandemic have put a halt on the progress of the Arctic Observatory (CIAO) at Kárhóll, a collaborative effort between Icelandic and Chinese scientific institutes to study the Northern Lights. Travel restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the disease have hindered Chinese scientists from entering Iceland to continue their work.
The project began in 2012 when Icelandic institutes, led by Rannís and Chinese institutes, led by PRIC agreed to cooperate on Arctic and marine research. The Arctic Observatory research station in Reykjadalur in Suður-Þingeyjarsýsla finally opened in 2018 but overall progress has been slower than expected.
Speaking with RÚV, Reinhard Reynisson, director of the Arctic Observatory, said that they are monitoring the Northern Lights and other activities from the station using specialized equipment. Data is shared via fiber optics with the Chinese Arctic Institute for analysis. In line with the collaborative effort, Icelandic scientists involved in the project have access to this data as well.
More extensive research will take place there once the facilities, meant to house 15 scientists, are fully up and running. There will also be a visitor’s centre for the general public to understand the activities of the station and gain a deeper appreciation of this phenomenon.
Reinhard believes the ultimate plans for the station will be fulfilled once the COVID-19 situation allows for greater freedom of movement across international borders.
In the meantime, you can view real-time Aurora Borealis monitoring at Kárhóll by following the link on their website.
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