lack of continuous data on ozone depletion, air quality and climate change in the Arctic
Canada's most northerly research station lost its federal funding in 2012, as it was studying the largest ozone hole ever recorded over the Northern hemisphere. While funding has now been renewed for four years, the year without funding resulted in significant data gaps.
The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut, tracked ozone depletion, air quality and climate change in the high Arctic year-round for seven 7 years from 2005 to 2012 thanks to grants from the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS), which covered three-quarters of the station's costs until the Harper government stopped funding CFCAS in 2012.
During the Arctic winter of 2011, PEARL researchers were able to make continuous observations of the largest ozone depletion event ever recorded in the Northern hemisphere. However, in the winter of 2012–13, the loss in funding meant that less measurements were taken resulting in significant gaps in these important time series datasets.
As Jim Drummond, a Dalhousie University researcher and principal investigator for PEARL put it, "Shutting it down causes a big gap in the measurements." German researcher Matthias Schneider said PEARL's closure will eliminate a "unique set" of high Arctic measurements "essential" to the global effort. W.R. Peltier, director of the Centre for Global Change Science at the University of Toronto, described the impact of the cuts as "devastating."
PEARL is uniquely located within a vast sector of the high Arctic that would otherwise go unmonitored. While stations in Alaska, Scandinavia and Russia are providing similarly important data, PEARL is recognized internationally as an essential link in the chain.
Then-Environment Minister Peter Kent observed that his department provided about $250,000 of PEARL's $1.5 million annual budget but "I certainly as minister of Environment Canada do not have a million and a half dollars in my back pocket."
In May 2013, the Conservative government created the new Climate Change and Atmospheric Research initiative to fund climate research. PEARL was awarded a $5 million grant through this new fund keeping it alive until 2017. This grant is less than the funding PEARL had received previously, so its capacity has been reduced.
The government plans to set up a new High Arctic research station in Cambridge Bay, 1,300 kilometres south of PEARL, although experts have pointed out that this new research facility is not actually in the High Arctic so it won't be as equipped to study High Arctic conditions as PEARL.