Cold Regions as part of the Earth system have their specific characteristics. These regions have been low in population and thus higher reserve of natural resources. These natural resources include minerals, hydrocarbon products, fresh water, forestry, and abundant bio-diversity particularly marine. Due to their remoteness, a systematic study of the historic and existing environmental conditions of cold regions is far less developed than the temperate part of the Earth. Population growth, technology improvements, and climate change will no doubt accelerate the economic development in cold regions. In this century, it is likely that mining under the Arctic Ocean will
begin, in addition to the already existing offshore drillings along the circumpolar coastal zones. Associated with these resource development activities, shipping and pipeline industry need to expand to transport materials in and out of the cold regions. Environmental protection strategies must be in place to address the specific characteristic in these regions.
This theme includes fundamental science, technology development, and engineering work. As in all fields, fundamental science is the basis to build a sound engineering/technology structure. Cold regions are a complex system due to the coexistence of water in its multi-phases as snow and ice, and within different media in air, water, and soil. To conduct good engineering in cold regions requires knowledge in fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, as well as materials science, to name a few. Good science does not exist in isolation. Field observations are extremely important to direct science. In cold regions field observations have been historically sparse and rare. A few internationally organized expeditions (AIDJEX, MIZEX, and LEADEX) have shown the wealth of data and variability of the Arctic. Surrounding the Antarctic there are numerous research and observation bases established by many nations. Development in remote sensing since the 1960s has brought in tremendous amount of data, covering the entire globe continuously. Sensors developed to record snow, ice, cloud, chemical species are now able to monitor these parameters with reasonable reliability. Meanwhile, engineering development in cold regions has also seen growing speed, taking advantage of new scientific knowledge: pipelines, offshore platforms, ice breakers, and bridges. Sensible management of natural environment relies on predictive tools that can evaluate different engineering scenarios. These tools are built using scientific knowledge as well as field observations. One good example of these tools is the river ice management.
This theme provides examples of fundamental science, technology development and engineering projects constructed in cold regions, as well as predictive tools for managing cold regions. By no means is the theme a complete coverage of all issues, including success and challenges that cold regions face. One major area that is conspicuously missing is the environmental policy specifically addressing this vulnerable part of the Earth, in particular the permafrost. This and many other important topics will hopefully be added in this theme at a later time.
It is with optimism this editor strongly feels while constructing this theme. Accurate, scientifically based reporting of facts to the public is the first step towards building a global citizenry. With which one may expect that human development will be a sustainable activity in tune with the natural evolution of the Earth system. This theme would not have been possible without the tireless work of the many authors. They have persevered through a long process in producing this theme. They most worked entirely from the motivation to help the public understand the cold regions. All of these authors have devoted their lifelong career in studying cold regions and in building for the cold regions. Without exception, these authors are examples of citizenry who care for the Earth and would like to share their knowledge with as many people as possible. To them, to many other potential authors who could not participate at this time, and finally to the thinking mind behind the EOLSS project, the editor expresses deepest acknowledgement.