Expanding Japanese-Norwegian climate research

The NORPAN project gives Norwegian researchers and students the opportunity to visit Japanese and Norwegian institutions.

Polar Low Japan
POLAR LOW: A low-pressure system developing in the Sea of Japan in 2015, which is presumed to be a polar low.
Wikimedia Commons

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Meteorology Professor Thomas Spengler from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Bergen (UiB) is the project manager for Partnership between Norway and Japan for excellent Education and Research in Weather and Climate Dynamics (NORPAN).

“The NORPAN project centres on climate and weather-related research and we hope to welcome a number of Japanese PhD candidates and master’s students to Bergen,” Professor Spengler says.

Professor Spengler’s research focuses primarily on short-term weather phenomena, such as extratropical cyclones and polar lows.

“One strength of the climate and meteorology community in Bergen is our combination of using observations and models in our work. Often research institutions focus mainly on one of these. We also conduct a lot of fieldwork and observations in our education and research, where we think NORPAN may attract Japanese exchange students,” Professor Spengler says.

Mutually beneficial exchange

The Bergen researchers have entered into partnerships with various partners in Tokyo. Such partnerships make it possible for researchers and students in Norway and Japan to go on exchange.

“The education and research at the University of Tokyo are excellent. They have a special focus on dynamics of the climate system with a strong background in mathematics and in physics, which could attract researchers and students from Bergen,” Professor Spengler says.

“In return, here in Bergen we can offer a variety of field research starting already at bachelor level.”

Professor Spengler notes that the two countries also have complimentary foci in climate research.

“In Norway we have a strong focus on the Arctic and parts of the tropics. Japan, due to its geographic location, features phenomena from sea ice and polar lows in the north to tropical typhoons in the south, and different ocean currents systems that we are used to in Norway,” says Professor Spengler.

Kick-off in May 2016

NORPAN had its kick-off meeting the week before the Japan-Norway Arctic Science and Innovation Week 2016.

“The aim of the collaboration is to build upon the work we already do with the University of Tokyo, to expand on previous collaborations and also involve new partners,” says Professor Spengler.

One of the institutions Professor Spengler has in mind is the renowned Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC).

By expanding the network, Professor Spengler hopes this will open doors to applying for bigger grants in the future, such as through the Research Council of Norway’s Mathematics, Physical Science and Technology (FRINATEK) programme.

“I mainly collaborate with colleagues from the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and France. To collaborate with our partners in Japan brings in new perspectives and expands our views as researchers,” says Professor Spengler.

Other key people at NORPAN

Japanese researcher Hiroshi Matsumoto was employed by UiB and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in December 2015 to strengthen the collaboration between the Norwegian universities and Japan.

Thomas Spengler’s colleague, Professor Noel Keenlyside, is also heavily involved with the NORPAN project. Professor Keenlyside’s research focuses on long-term climate prediction with a focus on decadal periods.

Another partner is Professor Kerim Hestnes Nisancioglu. By combining ice cores from Greenland’s ice sheet with climate models, he looks at how the Earth’s climate varied thousands of years ago.