Pandemic related travel restrictions to Svalbard - effects and responses

A new perspective paper has been published by the SIOS community summarising the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on research activities in Svalbard and responses by SIOS.

The paper highlights the activities of SIOS Knowledge Centre and the SIOS Remote Sensing Working Group (RSWG) in response to the unprecedented situation imposed by the global pandemic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

When Norway declared a nationwide lockdown to decrease the rate of spread of the COVID-19 in the community, even more strict measures were taken to protect the Svalbard community from the potential spread of the disease. Due to the lockdown, travel restrictions, and quarantine regulations declared by many nations, most physical meetings, training courses, conferences, and workshops worldwide were cancelled by the first week of March 2020. The resumption of physical scientific meetings is still uncertain in the foreseeable future. Additionally, field campaigns to polar regions, including Svalbard, were and remain severely affected. In response to this changing situation, SIOS initiated several operational activities suitable to mitigate the new challenges resulting from the pandemic.

This article provides an extensive overview of SIOS’s Earth observation (EO), remote sensing (RS) and other operational activities strengthened and developed in response to COVID-19 to support the Svalbard scientific community. These include (1) an initiative to patch up field data (in situ) with RS observations, (2) a logistics sharing notice board for effective coordinating field activities in the pandemic times, (3) a monthly webinar series and panel discussion on EO talks, (4) an online conference on EO and RS, (5) the SIOS’s special issue in the Remote Sensing (MDPI) journal, (6) the conversion of a terrestrial remote sensing training course into an online edition, and (7) the announcement of opportunity (AO) in airborne remote sensing for filling the data gaps using aerial imagery and hyperspectral data.

The paper provides a critical perspective on the overall response, possible broader impacts, relevance to other observing systems, and future directions. With a broad scientific audience in mind, this perspective paper on activities in Svalbard is presented as a case study.

Read and download full paper HERE

Learn more about the special issue on remote sensing applications in Svalbard here.