The pandemic followed up by the national lockdowns have posed a number of challenges for the delivery of environmental data and services. Many of our ground-based observing networks are either partly or fully automated and therefore they continued to operate. However missing repair, maintenance and supply work, and inability to travel have affected the operations. Moreover, a complete shutdown of the commercial passenger air traffic has been having a detrimental effect on data delivery from our aircraft based infrastructures.
Even automated systems depend on people
✦ Firstly, all Research Infrastructures have of course been forced to transition into virtual meetings. ✦ Many observational platforms (e.g. ACTRIS) and measuring stations (e.g. ICOS) across Research Infrastructures are at least partly automated. For ICOS, the maintenance is affected, as travelling to sites restricted. Ocean stations situation difficult as many research vessels are tied up in the harbours; access to Ships of Opportunity often difficult. Data processing at Central Facilities and Carbon Portal continues in home offices. Laboratories closed or working with severely reduced capacity.
✦ In INTERACT, for example, operations in many stations is on hold to protect Arctic communities from the spread of the virus. ✦ Many Eurofleets+ research vessels are currently not operating or operating at reduced capacity. However, most vessels are expected to be operational by mid-summer. Data will be collated from each Research Vessel following easing of restrictions to assess the impact on operations. This knowledge will be shared and used to develop protocols for future events. Some scheduling issues for funded Transnational Access are foreseen, but measures are in place to minimise impact on planned research cruises.
Travel restrictions impact many projects
✦ A challenge for IAGOS has been that many aircraft are grounded or flying reduced schedules, and future operations are expected to be slowed until the aviation industry recovers (see also WMO on the same topic). ✦ For EUFAR member organisations, many normal activities have had to be cancelled or postponed. In particular, some airborne observing campaigns planned from March onwards are postponed, which has a knock-on impact on campaigns that were being planned in 2021. Much of the work may eventually go ahead as originally planned except where it also required ground- or ship-borne facilities that were only in place this year. Lab-based activities including work on the development of new airborne instruments is also delayed. ✦ Surprised by the rapid lockdowns, access to all EMBRC facilities is halted due to travel restrictions. No experiments are deployed and no biological resources are being collected. Shipping of organisms was not possible for a long time, and EMBRC will now be working to prepare a contingency plan for future lockdowns that will ensure shipping of organisms and maintenance of monitoring and observation efforts. Furthermore, EMBRC is looking into what services can be provided remotely and having more “mail-in” services, with users sending their samples. ✦ SIOS responded to the lock-down situation with diverse initiatives: to keep international researchers up-to-date about the fast changing regulations concerning travel restrictions to Svalbard and the different research bases, a compilation of all relevant information resources has been made available on the SIOS web page; a logistics sharing notice board was launched as a platform to offer and request help with issues related to cancelled field activities during the lock-down; the SIOS remote sensing service offers to look into possibilities to patch up field data gaps with remote sensing techniques; and a monthly webinar mini-series was started in March to provide a social experience and keep the Svalbard research community engaged.