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Climate Change in the Arctic & around the globe

China to step up polar activities in 2013

Chinese Arctic Station in Ny Alesund, Spitsbergen

Chinese Arctic Station in Ny Alesund, Spitsbergen

I am finding people increasingly interested in the Arctic and Antarctic as climate change opens up more prospects of getting at the natural resources in the region or using it for transport. The latest example of top-level international interest is an announcement by China. Beijing is planning to launch its 30th expedition to the Antarctic region this year as well as its 6th Arctic expedition. This interest is not new, but clearly intensifying. (See China’s Arctic ambitions spark concern).

According to China Daily, quoting a document released at a maritime work conference on Thursday, the country is also planning to build more Antarctic research bases. There are plans to put more resources into planes for scientific expeditions and to “ensure the quality of newly-built icebreakers”.

The paper also refers in particular to “the protection of the country’s strategic interests in the Arctic region”. Now there is some food for thought.

Increasing international political and strategic interest in the Arctic will be on the agenda at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsö, Norway, starting January 21st. Watch this space.

 

Date

January 11, 2013 | 3:16 pm

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”Tis the Season… to drill ice cores!”

Alain Hubert, expedition team leader for the IceCon and Be:Wise projects investigating the Antarctic ice sheet. Courtesy of International Polar Foundation

As the year draws towards an end, winter officially starts and the longest night is before us here in the northern hemisphere,  I have been entranced by photos from the Antarctic, full of light and white and 90 shades of blue. With a holiday break ahead of me, let me direct you to some more of these spectactular pictures and the stories of the hard work behind them, with the scientists from the International Polar Foundation out there examining the ice sheet. As I’ve been writing here on the Ice Blog recently, the Antarctic is also being affected by climate change, but to a different extent in different places. We only know this thanks to the work of scientists like Reinhard Drews and others who make their way down there and carry out the hard work.

Glaciologist and InBev-Baillet Latour Antarctic Fellowship recipient Reinhard Drews installing a GPS station on the Roi Baudoin ice shelf as part of the Be:Wise scientific project. (Copyright: International Polar Foundation)

A happy new year to you scientists out there in the field – and all ice blog followers. More from me on January 9th!! Comments welcome in the meantime.

Date

December 21, 2012 | 3:07 pm

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Much ado about nothing? So much for the big climate conference

Storm on the horizon Australia

Storm on the horizon

No, there’s no ice on the picture. It’s actually one I took on a trip to Australia.  But the mood matches my mood as I reflect on the results from Doha. What a meagre outcome. Kyoto extended – big deal. The reduction pledges are too low, there are too few countries involved. Without the USA and China committing to substantial reductions, there is little chance of reaching that two degree target – or even a four-degree target, which even the World Bank says could be on the cards, and scientists agree would be pretty devastating for the planet. The developing countries battling drought and floods, the small island states sinking in rising seas – are still left wondering where the money they’ve been promised to help them cope is going to come from.  And it seems to me a real plan for that next world climate agreement must be far off on that dark, dusty horizon somewhere.

Let’s not wait for the next round of UN talks. We need to take action now. That means politicians, industry – and you and me. Listening to people talking about the outcome, the biggest danger I see is that people think there is nothing we can do anyway. I know it’s frustrating. I do not expect much of these mega annual climate-shows. But that shouldn’t stop us from pushing ahead with energy saving, renewables and anything we can do to make our lifestyles more sustainable.

Date

December 9, 2012 | 11:23 am

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The long Doha wait – is it worth it?

 

Winter has arrived here in Germany. The heat is still on in Doha.

Still waiting for the outcome of the conference. My expectations are not high. Some of the ngo representatives have just said it would be better to let the conference end with no agreement rather than unsatisfactory compromises. I can see their point of view. If there can be no definitive pledges to the developing world of the funding needed for adaptation, what is the point in agreeing? If the Kyoto compromise will still let Russia and eastern European countries use up old emissions permits, is there really anything gained? And without a single pledge of significant reductions, things do not look good for a new world climate agreement from 2020. On the other hand, it would be a very bad sign if nothing came out of Doha. But the chances of anything substantial being agreed still seem to me virtually non-existent. Meanwhile, there seems to be one study after another coming out about the accelerating ice melt in the polar regions. And I think you can forget that 2 degrees target.

 

Date

December 8, 2012 | 10:17 am

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How can the Antarctic be melting when part of the ice sheet is growing?

Antarctic Peninsula, taken by Hamish Pritchard, British Antarctic Survey

One of my colleagues keeps telling me global warming is not really causing ice melt, because the East Antarctic ice sheet is actually growing. Yes, it is indeed, according to the latest comprehensive study taking account of all the available satellite data. But this is in fact consistent with what scientists expect from climate warming. Warming oceans are leading to more precipitation, which falls on the high East Antarctic ice sheet as snow. The situation in West Antarctica and on the Antarctic peninsula are very different. If you find all this interesting, you might like to listen to this Interview with Andrew Shepherd, coordinator of the latest study, supported by NASA and ESA, the European space agency. He explains what the satellites tell us about the state of the polar ice caps and their increasing contribution to global sea level rise.

In case you missed them, you can still catch up on the satellite study and the latest models on sea level rise. At the end of the interview I asked Prof. Shepherd what difference the data could mean to the next IPCC models on sea level rise. He made the point that the real uncertainty in these models is about what emissions trajectory the world’s countries will opt for. Which brings us back to Doha.  I’m  following  the talks with interest, but not much in the way of expectations. The German environment minister told my colleague Andrea Rönsberg in an interview he wasn’t too optimistic about whether the talks would manage to reduce sea level by even a tiny degree. He’s not alone there.

Date

December 7, 2012 | 2:03 pm

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