Over the next century, climate change will pose one of the greatest challenges for the global community. The research station makes it possible to conduct climate research which was previously not feasible in the High Arctic. 


Henrik Skov (b. 1962), professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Aarhus University. He is Director of Villum Research Station, Station Nord, located in the far north of Greenland. He has more than 20 years' experience of research in Arctic atmospheric chemistry, on which he has written many articles, and is principal author of a report to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on atmospheric mercury, which led to the global ban on mercury.

Project: Construction of a new, state-of-the-art research station at Station Nord in northeastern Greenland

Grantee: Department of Environmental Science, Aarhus University  

Amount: DKK 70,500,000 from VILLUM FONDEN

Two-fold temperature increases in the artic

Over the next century, climate change caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will pose one of the greatest challenges for the global community. In the Arctic, the rise in temperature is twice the average in the rest of the world (IPCC, 2013). 

Even now, the warmer climate has had great impact on sea ice cover, ecosystems and biodiversity, with impending consequences for local communities, industrial development, transport and international politics. The extent of summer ice in the Arctic Ocean has been reduced by 40%, the composition of multiannual and new ice is radically altered, and spring arrives earlier each year (IPCC, 2013). This has great consequences for the physical, chemical and biological systems and processes. It does, however, permit the utilisation of resources in these otherwise inaccessible regions.

Knowledge of the arctic remains limited

While much new knowledge has been gained about the Arctic in recent years, it is still one of the regions of the world we know least about. One limiting factor is the lack of research logistics in the High Arctic especially. The logistics of conducting research in the High Arctic are very challenging indeed. This is due primarily to the impassable location and the lack of modern research infrastructure. It is therefore crucially important to establish new, well-suited and easily accessible research facilities in the High Arctic region.

Figure 1. Villum Research Station, Station Nord, is located in the High Arctic environment of northeastern Greenland. Graphic: Wikipedia

The complex consists of three main units and is scheduled for completion in 2016: 

1. The Base Station: a number of buildings containing laboratory and accommodation facilities, for studying air pollution, ice, climate and biological processes in the vicinity.

2. The Mobile Station: snowscooters and other snow vehicles, sleds, tents etc., for studies of chemical, physical, geological and biological processes at sites remote from Station Nord.

3. The Air Station: drones that will facilitate studies of vertical atmospheric composition and airborne land observations (remote sensing). 

Station nord is made up of three key stations

The Base Station consists of a researcher building of 360 m2, a garage of 110 m2 and an air measurement facility of 110 m2; see Figure 2. The Station is one of very few High Arctic facilities to be open all year round. The researcher building sleeps 14 researchers at a time. In addition, The Base Station consists of four laboratories, a non-sterile laboratory, a chemistry laboratory, a biochemistry laboratory and a sterile-research, restricted-access laboratory. Finally, the researcher building contains a small flat for the chief logistician, office facilities and a living room and small kitchen where the researchers can relax (Figure 3).

The garage is used for storing scientifc feld equipment and ‘The Mobile Station’ including its vehicles. 

The air measurement facility is located 2 km away from the Station Nord boundary in order to minimise the effects of local air pollution. Transportation by snow scooters and other vehicles to the facility is thereby also kept to an absolute minimum. The air measurement facility is equipped with specially designed intakes for measuring particles and gases in the atmosphere (Figure 4).

The Mobile Station will make it possible to conduct research at some distance away from Station Nord, either along the coast or out on the ice.

The Air Station will consist of a feet of drones, which will be equipped with sensors for measuring the surface properties of the ground, ice, snow and sea. Other drone equipment will measure air pollutants and other critical atmospheric compounds at different altitudes. Finally, this Station will comprise a number of remote sensors for measuring the vertical composition of critical atmospheric compounds. The air measurement facility is capable of operating independently or in conjunction with The Mobile Station or The Base Station. 

Villum Research Station opens its doors to international research


Villum Research Station will be open to both the Danish and the international research communities. This will be facilitated via the recently established Arctic Research Centre at Aarhus University and the likewise recently established Arctic Science Partnership made up of research groups in Denmark, Greenland and Canada. 

The establishment of the research infrastructure will thus result in an international platform for interdisciplinary research on the impact of climate change in the Arctic regions, including a deeper understanding of the implications for the sea ice, glaciers, ecosystems and atmosphere. Studies of these elements are necessary in order to answer the signifcant scientifc questions relating to global warming in the Arctic and its impacts on the rest of the world.

A good start

Villum Research Station, Station Nord, has got of to a good start. In this year alone, around 100 researchers from eight different countries spent 1,700 nights between them at the station. The activities range from atmospheric chemistry and physics, geology and microbiology to traditional marine biology and terrestrial biology. The Station is now being readied for season 2016 and great interest in using the facilities has already been registered.