Canadians send money to help High Arctic research station stay open

But the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory will still close April 30

By SPECIAL TO NUNATSIAQ NEWS

Despite efforts to save the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) at Eureka, on the western coast of Ellesmere Island, the facility will close at the end of the month. (FILE PHOTO)


Despite efforts to save the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) at Eureka, on the western coast of Ellesmere Island, the facility will close at the end of the month. (FILE PHOTO)

POSTMEDIA NEWS

MONTREAL — Since February, individual Canadians sent donations totalling $12,000 to help fund a High Arctic research station after the federal government stopped financing it last year.

Prof. James Drummond, of Dalhousie University, said in an interview that the money will help send a student to the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) at Eureka, on the western coast of Ellesmere Island.

Since 2005, the research station had received $1.5 million a year from the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences to maintain its permanent research station at Eureka.

The federal government created that foundation in 2000 with a grant of $110 million. The foundation has spent $5.5 million funding the PEARL project.

But the Conservative government decided last year not to fund the foundation as of March 1 of this year, which means no more money for PEARL.

Drummond, who heads the PEARL project, said while the amount of money is small, it was nevertheless significant that more than 150 Canadians reacted to the government’s decision by sending donations for PEARL to the foundation. Individual donations ranged from $5 to $1,000.

Dawn Conway, executive director of the foundation, said the donations came to the foundation despite the fact it did not advertise.

The federal government’s decision to stop funding this research came at a critical time for PEARL’s research into the ozone layer.

Drummond said that last year, the hole in the ozone over the Arctic was larger than it has ever been and it is vital that the world monitor this ozone depletion, which increases the risk of sunburn, skin cancers and cataracts and can weaken the immune system.

The government argues it is creating a new research station at Cambridge Bay (which is about 1,000 kilometres south of Eureka).

“It’s like predicting the weather in Montreal by collecting weather data in Georgia,” Drummond said.

He said PEARL also is an important station for the verification of data collected by satellites orbiting over the Arctic. He said unless satellite data on atmospheric science are verified by Earth-based stations, nobody can be sure if the data is accurate. The position of PEARL’S High Arctic station is ideal for satellite verification, he said.

On April 30, PEARL will cease full-time, year-around operations.

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