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Celebrating UAE’s Golden Jubilee with Solar Lights and Reflections on Antarctica

December 26, 2021

Dr. Diana Francis, Senior Scientist and Head of Environmental and Geophysical Sciences (ENGEOS) Lab at Khalifa University, participated in the Antarctica Day event on 1 December 2021 at the Dubai Expo. The event, which was hosted by Environment Agency — Abu Dhabi (EAD), brought together the 35 people from the UAE who have visited the world’s polar regions of Antarctica and the Arctic. 


The purpose of the gathering was to share stories on historic UAE Antarctic and Arctic expeditions from the previous 50 years, discuss the importance of the polar regions to the UAE with respect to climate change and plan future environmental collaborations, in celebration of the UAE’s 50th anniversary.


“I have been studying polar regions and particularly Antarctica for more than five years,” Dr. Francis shared. 


“My interest is specifically in the climate science of Polar Regions with emphasis on the link between the atmosphere and the cryosphere (both land ice and sea ice). In this context, I organize every year, along with two other polar scientists, a workshop on Polar Meteorology and Climatology at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly to facilitate the exchange of new knowledge among the international community of polar scientists, which helps us to identify current gaps and plan future activities,” she added.


Currently, at the ENGEOS Lab, KU researchers are conducting a project on Antarctic sea ice and how global warming is affecting it. KU has instruments in Antarctica to measure the state of ice and gain invaluable knowledge about its variability. The work is being done in collaboration with Australia.


Future plans include additional projects to study the variability of Antarctic Ice and its impact on Sea level rise globally and regionally, as well as the development of new methods to investigate the Antarctic environment from space (via satellites) and on the ground (via in-situ observations).


The Antarctic Day event was organized under the Zayed’s Lights initiative. During the gathering, each participant received a Zayed light, which is a small solar powered light, in recognition of their contribution to Antarctic science and polar science in general.


Over 100 Zayed Lights were used in 2018 by a team of UAE researchers from EAD who traveled to Antarctica to light up the Antarctic sky, sending a message of unity, hope and action on climate change.


To symbolically raise awareness on the importance of climate change action, in replicating the initiative of EAD’s Team Zayed in Antarctica, the attendees at the Expo 2020 Dubai event wrote the following words: ‘Antarctica, Climate Change, Dubai Expo, UAE 50 Years and COP 28’, using 50 individual solar lights, reflecting 50 years of the UAE.


The participants, who are now part of the UAE Polar Network, also discussed the key messages from the August 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, which warned about the impact of climate change and the urgency to take action to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change in the future. 


Erica Solomon
Senior Publication Specialist
26 December 2021