EISCAT_3D, the new Arctic radar gets go-ahead for construction

A new international research radar called EISCAT_3D was given the green light to proceed this month, promising a step-change in understanding the effect of solar storms and space weather on the upper atmosphere in the Arctic.

The EISCAT_3D facility will be distributed across three sites in Northern Scandinavia - in Skibotn, Norway, near Kiruna in Sweden, and near Kaaresuvanto in Finland. Each site will consist of about 10.000 antennas fed by a powerful 5 MW transmitter at Skibotn and a receiver at each of the three sites. The total budget is 70 M€ and the project will start in September 2017. Site preparations begin in summer 2018 and the radar is expected to be operational in 2021.

EISCAT_3D will be the world’s leading facility of its kind, offering together with the older EISCAT Svalbard radar a critically important window to the upper atmosphere and the near-Earth space in the European Arctic. As the name suggests, a key capability is to measure a 3-D volume of the upper atmosphere by using the most modern digital and analog technologies. Signals from the antennas will be combined electronically, and hence the radar can look even in 100 different directions at any given instant.

EISCAT_3D makes it possible to study how energetic particles and electrical currents from space affect the upper and the lower atmosphere as well as man-made technologies such as satellites and power grids on the ground. Also, the aurora borealis can be studied in three dimensions.

The system will be built by the EISCAT Scientific Association, comprising research councils and national institutes from Finland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Japan and China. EISCAT_3D is the culmination of a 10-year design and preparation phase, supported by the European Union. Academy of Finland finances the investment with 12.8 million euro. University of Oulu funds the project with 756 000 euro.

In Finland, the EISCAT_3D project is coordinated by University of Oulu and its independent department Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory. Observatory director Esa Turunen states that the decision means a significant investment in Finland, Sweden and Norway for the next 30 years. The economic implications will be multifold.

Professor in Space Physics Anita Aikio tells that the EISCAT_3D project is very important to the Finnish space research: “For the first time, we can measure in three dimensions the effect of energetic particles and electrical currents from the space on the upper and middle atmosphere simultaneously. This makes it possible to find connections between space physics and atmospheric physics.”


EISCAT_3D radar stations locations on the map: transmitter-receiver in Norway, receiver stations in Finland and Sweden. 


Main image: Illustration of the EISCAT_3D transmitter. Antenna clusters are hexagonal, there are 109 of them, and each cluster has 91 antenna elements. Diameter of an antenna field is approximately 70 m.


Last updated: 27.9.2017