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Cablegate: France Kicks Off Ipy Research

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Lucia A Keegan 03/12/2007 12:14:02 PM From DB/Inbox: Lucia A Keegan

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UNCLAS PARIS 00902

SIPDIS
cxparis:
ACTION: SCI
INFO: LABO ENGO ECSO DCM AMB ECON POL AGR UNESCO AMBO
SCIO ESCI

DISSEMINATION: SCIX
CHARGE: PROG

APPROVED: SCI:RDRY
DRAFTED: SCI:MHMASSING
CLEARED: CLEAR:NONE

VZCZCFRI953
RR RUEHC RHEHAAA RUEAEPA RUEANAT RUEHZN RUEHBS
RUEHMRE RUEHSR
DE RUEHFR #0902/01 0680920
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090920Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5467
INFO RHEHAAA/THE WHITE HOUSE WASHDC
RUEAEPA/EPA WASHDC
RUEANAT/NASA WASHDC
RUEHZN/EST COLLECTIVE
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS 1953
RUEHMRE/AMCONSUL MARSEILLE 1573
RUEHSR/AMCONSUL STRASBOURG 0350

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 000902

SIPDIS

WHITE HOUSE FOR OSTP
DEPT PLS PASS NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
DEPT FOR OES, STAS, OES/OA, OES/EGC, EUR/WE
EMBASSIES FOR SCIENCE OFFICERS
BRUSSELS FOR ESTH SMITHAM

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV TPHY TSPA TSPL KSCA FR
SUBJECT: FRANCE KICKS OFF IPY RESEARCH

NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

1. Summary: Following the March 1 launch of the fourth
International Polar Year (IPY) in Paris, 70 French research teams
plan to participate in 55 approved programs, evidencing keen French
interest in glaciology, biology and astronomy in the polar regions.
A number of the programs France will lead will add to understanding
of polar climate science. In the context of IPY, a French
parliamentary group recently evaluated French polar research
objectives and organization. The group reported that while French
polar research is reputed internationally, it would benefit by
in-depth reorganization. The report advocates greater French
research in the Arctic and recommends the reinforcement of Italian,
German, and French partnerships as an initial step towards the
creation of a future European polar research agency. End summary.

---------------------------------------------
A long tradition but fractured organization...
---------------------------------------------

2. A number of public research agencies - the National Center for
Scientific Research (CNRS), the French Space Agency (CNES), Meteo
France, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea
(IFREMER) and the French Atomic Commission (CEA) are all active in
polar research. Numerous public services are also involved, among
them the Foreign and Research Ministries, the French Polar Institute
Paul Emile Victor (IPEV), and the French Southern and Antarctic
Territories (TAAF). Evaluating funding devoted to polar research in
France would be hazardous because of the scattered nature of polar
research among agencies and other bodies involved.

-------------------------
A word on IPEV & TAAF...
-------------------------

3. Created in 1992, IPEV represents a grouping of nine public or
para-public bodies. It does not conduct research but acts as a
resource agency for polar research, providing host infrastructure
for scientists in polar regions and organizing expeditions
(recruitment of technical staff, chartering vessels, overall
organization of French objectives). It also currently engages in
oceanographic research programs. IPEV is based in Brest and employs
50 permanent staff. Its budget is modest (approximately 20 million
euros per year). The TAAF, established in 1955, represents an
overseas territory of France, consisting of several groups of
islands in the southern Indian Ocean and a sector of Antarctica.
TAAF does not play any role in the Arctic (where there is no French
territory). TAAF and IPEV reportedly often compete for scarce
resources for similar objectives.

-------------------
Polar-ready vessels
-------------------

4. Among the largest European vessels strengthened against ice
operating in the polar regions is the French 130 meter, 10,000 ton
"Marion Dufresne." Another French vessel used for marine science is
the medium-sized polyvalent ice-strengthened "Astrolabe." France
has no icebreaker, no polar-ready planes nor helicopters, apart from
those based on these two liaison vessels. (None of the French bases
in the Austral Ocean can be reached by plane.)

----------------
Focus Antarctica
----------------

5. French polar research has been mostly focused on Antarctica
where the French presence is strong. After the construction of the
permanent Dumont d'Urville scientific research station in Terre
Adelie in 1956, France built, in partnership with Italy, another
permanent base, called Concordia, some 1,000 km from the coast, on
the Dome C site (polar ice cap more than 3,200 m thick). The
Concordia station, open in 2005, is one of only three permanent
bases operating inland. France is currently running some 20
research projects in Antarctica. French and German scientists work
together in the French-German Arctic Research Base on Spitsbergen.

6. Astronomy: Due to its stable, pure, and dry atmosphere, the
Concordia station constitutes an excellent observatory for
astronomical observations and is also considered the best site in
the world for the visible and infrared domains. France and Italy
plan to take advantage of these excellent conditions to develop
several astronomical programs. The Stella Antarctica "IPY" program
run and supported by French scientists seeks to develop a large
international observatory at Dome C. In 2008, A-STEP (Antarctica
Search for Transiting Extra-solar Planets), a 40 cm telescope of the
Cote d'Azur University of Nice will be installed there to study the
seismology of stars and search for transits of exoplanets.

7. Other: In addition to biological research, Concordia's location,
far removed from the disturbances in the coastal belt, is considered
ideal for seismic observations and studies of magnetism. Concordia
also supports a range of research on glaciology and atmospherics.
The polar instruments for detecting nuclear testing will soon be
reinforced and French physicists are planning the installation of
two specialized radars for ionospheric observations. The isolation,
confinement, and extreme climate, are seen as especially useful in
biomedical programs applicable to space flights.

------------
IPY Programs
------------

8. While 70 French research teams - from CNRS, CEA, CNES, IFREMER,
Meteo France, the French Museum of Natural History, and universities
- will participate in 55 of the 210 multidisciplinary programs
officially selected in the context of the new IPY, French scientists
will lead six of the labeled IPY programs:

- Hydro-sensor-FLOWS (Arctic and Antarctic glacier hydrosystems as
natural sensors for recent climatic variations - CNRS leadership);

- Developing Arctic modeling and observing capabilities for
long-term environmental studies (DAMOCLES - CNRS leadership); funded
at EU level (French contribution some 9.3 millions euros). DAMOCLES
aims to reduce uncertainties in understanding climate change in the
Arctic and impacts;

- The Concordia program (French/Italian research station in
Antarctica - headed by IPEV);

- Ice and snow mass change of both polar regions using GRACE
satellite gravimetry - headed by CNRS;

- Stella Antarctica program, conducted by the Astrophysics
Laboratory of the University of Nice, seeks to develop a large
international astronomical observatory at Dome C.

- Circumpolar monitoring of the biology of key-species in relation
to environmental changes, headed by the Hubert Curien Institute.

------------------------------
Space agencies play their part
------------------------------

9. The French Space Agency, CNES, taking part in IPY, will supply
satellite data and help acquire in-situ measurements from balloons.
The European Space Agency, ESA, has agreed to make its legacy data
available through an extensive earth observation data portfolio
containing current and historical data from its ERS 1, ERS 2, and
Envisat satellites. ESA has also committed to helping researchers
collect satellite information, notably to "understand changes in the
global ice sheets." ESA satellite data - including images, microwave
data, sensitive gravity measurements - will be provided free of
charge and the 48 selected projects from 12 different countries will
cover both Arctic and Antarctic areas. The launch of spacecraft
Cryosat 2 in 2009 is expected to provide evidence on the rates at
which ice cover diminishes in polar regions. ESA also supports the
Polar View program, funded through the Earth watch GMES Service
Element (GSE) to promote the utilization of satellites for public
good and in support of public policy in the areas of sustainable
economic development, marine safety, and environment.

-----------------------
Antarctic eco-tourists?
-----------------------

10. According to some observers, IPY could provide opportunities
for further evolution of the Antarctic treaty and work on a North
Pole treaty. France is concerned about polar region pollution, a
phenomenon buttressed by the presence of some 15,000 tourists every
year in Antarctica. There appears to be interest in an annex to the
1991 Madrid Protocol, to place greater control on tourism to these
hypersensitive regions.

----------------------
Parliamentarian report
----------------------

11. The French parliamentary study, released mid-February
(http://www.senat.fr/rap/r06-230/r06-230.html ), acknowledges
France's prestigious past and current expertise in polar research
but also the need to better optimize research efforts. Its main
recommendations are based on the following:

- Regulatory authorities and responsible ministries lack a clear
vision of French strategy in the polar regions. In fact, there is
not one single entity responsible for formulating a synthetic
strategic vision of the French presence in the poles.
- The organization of polar research suffers from conflicting views
and lacks complementarity between TAAF and IPEV.

- Insufficient means are devoted to polar logistics.

- IPEV is gradually losing "polar specificity" because of the
emphasis on oceanographic programs (ice core drilling) due to
increasing costs to maintain the Marion Dufresne research vessel.

- French presence in the Arctic is weak.

12. The report recommends reinforcing IPEV's role as "the"
coordinator of French research in both polar regions. IPEV should
also be responsible for defining the French strategy. Another
suggestion is the possibility of designating an ambassador-at-large
position to better coordinate French work in polar regions. The
report proposes a significant increase of IPEV's financial means.
The parliamentarians argue for the transformation of Concordia
station into a multidisciplinary research station with a more
European/international bent and recommend strengthening astronomical
research activities. They additionally advocate the renovation of
the Dumont d'Urville station to act "in complementarity" with
Concordia.

--------------------
Not to forget Europe
--------------------

13. At EU level, the parliamentarians recommended the pooling of
terrestrial, air, and maritime means for research and the
development of a European network for polar research stations
already initiated with ARENA (Antarctic Research European Network
for Astrophysics). While the creation of a European polar research
agency does not appear likely for the time being because of
opposition by the European Commission, the report recommends the use
of German and Italian polar cooperation to provide impetus for a
shift towards the greater integration of national efforts within the
EU. The initial step would be to add German researchers at the
French-Italian Concordia station and Italian researchers at the
French-German station at Spitzbergen.


--------------------------------------------- ----------
Last but not least: Franco-American Polar Collaboration
--------------------------------------------- ----------

14. Finally, the report underscores "France's rich relationship
with the U.S.," e.g., France's participation in the 'IceCube'
(neutrino discovery project), French researchers' work in Alaska,
French use of U.S. logistical support in various locations. It notes
that this relationship could be formalized either through a global
agreement or the creation of a joint laboratory "which would be the
cement of a long lasting partnership whatever future developments."


STAPLETON

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