The Kebnekaise Massif holds the calm and powerful presence of an elder. Reaching high in the cloudless sky, one can easily grasp the depth of such a landscape. Evoking an eternal and ancient tempo, a rhythm the Sami of the surrounding valleys have been following for centuries.
Everything here is under the cadence of the glaciers growing and receding, the works of the wind and the inflection of water.
A pulse the scientific community has also been following for a century. Sitting at 1130 m a.s.l., facing three glaciers, Tarfala Research Station is the base of the longest glacier mass balance record on the globe. Storglaciären has been photographed since 1886. The location for a research base was identified in 1945 when Hans Ahlmann and Valter Schytt decided to start a long term mass balance monitoring programme on an easily accessible, relatively safe and responsive glacier. Since, scientists from around the world come to study, research, live and breath the essence of the place. Tarfala is a little comfort paradise in the middle of what can be a very harsh environment by times.
Even if one would like to ignore it; research conducted up here all point toward evidence of a rapidly changing landscape due to climate change. The on-going investigations allow for keeping an eye on the indicators of these changes and help with projections of future impacts. Thus creating a legacy of invaluable knowledge and data regarding climate change impacts in northern Sweden and Scandinavia.
But with increasing climate change consequences pressing on local communities, a legacy of scientific data is not a solution, it is a tool. A tool, that combined with others, will open up to new innovative alternatives.
This, Ninis Rosqvist the director of Tarfala Research Station, is very aware of it. She envisions Tarfala working with the local Sami in order to help one another in research and application of diverse forms of knowledge. Enhancing exchange based on cooperation in contrast to old-fashion use of traditional knowledge with little return to local communities.
As the area is an important site for reindeer husbandry and natural resources, understanding how the climate will impact this region is an essential interest of all the surrounding communities – popular and scientific. Tarfala Research Station is another example of the growing momentum towards collaborative work between disciplines, skills and knowledge.
Photo; Marika Wennbom