The Circumpolar North has no definitive boundaries but is commonly understood to comprise large parts of the continental Nordic countries, Russia, the USA, Canada, Greenland and Iceland, as well as the Arctic Ocean, the North Atlantic and the North Pacific.
The accelerated effects of climate change in this crucial region of our world have brought the Circumpolar North into particular focus in the 21st century, revealing inexorable social-ecological shifts that carry with them new risks and vulnerabilities. These changing conditions demand closer examination and evaluation.
The research and educational projects promoted by the HfE Circumpolar Observatory aim to increase scientific and scholarly understanding of how human communities have responded in the past to extreme environmental events and variability, while also working to better understand these challenges as they unfold in the present, so that a fuller archive of knowledge can be mobilized for the benefit of human and non-human communities in the future.
The researchers, projects and educational programs brought together in the observatory are defined, in part, by an openness to disciplinary border crossing that aligns physical environmental studies with historical and cultural modes of inquiry.
The observatory coordinates projects and activities closely with NIES (The Nordic Network for Interdisciplinary Environmental Studies), NABO (The North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation), GHEA (The Global Human Ecodynamics Alliance), Future Earth and IHOPE (The Integrated History and Future of People on Earth), in particular the IHOPE subprojects Circumpolar Networks and Global Environmental Change Threats to Heritage and Long Term Observing Networks of the Past.