Destination Ice Island
Greenland is the world’s largest island, with an area of some 2.2 million square km. Only around 410,000 square km of this are NOT covered by ice.
The northernmost land area in the world, situated less than 730km from the North Pole, is on Greenland, Cape Morris Jesup. The island’s southernmost point, Cape Farewell is 2,670 km south of this, so it really is a huge area, and very sparsely populated.
The island’s climate is Arctic, apart from a few sheltered valleys in South Greenland. The average temperature during the warmest month of the year does not rise above 10C.
My first destination will be Zackenberg Ecological Monitoring Station
I’ve been following the weather online, using data from Daneborg, which is around 25km from Zackenberg, and also has a base used by the station’s visiting scientists, and, incidentally, the Sirius dogsled patrol during the winter.
Weather forecasts for Daneborg
I’ll be arriving at Zackenberg, all being well, on Tuesday some time, after leaving Germany on Monday and spending a night on Iceland. More about the travel details later.
The Tuesday forecast looks good, sunshine, with a cool 4 degrees, dropping to 2 at night, although at this time of year there is not a great deal of difference, as it stays light most of the time. I’m hoping the forecast will be right and we’ll get some of that beautiful clear,blue Arctic weather. There’s always a danger of the other sort, with lots of fog.
Greenland is part of Denmark, but enjoys Home Rule, which means it deals with most of its own domestic affairs. It still has very close ties with Denmark and benefits from annual subsidies from Copenhagen, as well as free education, hospital and other services for Greenlandic citizens. The island is otherwise dependent on fishing at the moment.
The changes in the Arctic climate, which could open up access to natural resources now well under ice, will have major implications for the people of Greenland. Managing this and the whole adaptation process will be quite a challenge for the Home Rule authorities. But more about all that in the weeks to come.
More Information on Greenland from Greenland Home Rule
According to information published by the Arctic Council earlier this year summarizing a study on Snow, Water, Ice and Permaforst in the Arctic, if the ice sheet were to melt, the global seal level rise would be almost 7 meters. This figure would have devastating effects around the planet. No-one is saying this is going to happen soon, but the Greenland Ice Sheet is losing mass, and will be highly susceptible to the predicted strong warming of this part of the Arctic. I’ll be talking to the scientists working on all the complex processes which are part of climate change first-hand and finding out about their work in the field over the next few weeks.
DateJuly 10, 2009 | 10:56 am
The Greenland Ice Blog
Greenland is a key area in the global climate process. The Greenland Ice Sheet is the largest body of freshwater ice in the northern hemisphere. In recent years it has become very clear that global warming is causing the ice sheet to lose mass. Increased melting and ice discharge would have major consequences for global sea level. The warming climate is also already having a considerable impact on the lifestyle of the people of Greenland.
During the next few weeks the Ice Blog will be written from an expedition to Greenland, beginning with a visit to Zackenberg Research Station in remote North Eastern Greenland. Zackenberg is an ecosystem research and monitoring facility at 74°30’N/21°W. The station is owned by the Greenland Home Rule and is operated by the National Environmental Research Institute.
The Ice Blogger will also be visiting the interior ice sheet and the coastal glaciers, finding out first hand about the work of scientists monitoring climate change and its effects, the latest research results, and the implications both for the people of Greenland and for the rest of the world.
Deutsche Welle’s Ice Blog is part of an international broadcasting collaboration to mark the International Polar Year, partly founded by the National Science Foundation. I am extremely grateful to the NSF, Moira Rankine of Soundprint Media Inc. USA who coordinates the international project and my own organisation Deutsche Welle for making all this possible.
DateJuly 10, 2009 | 9:30 am
“A huge leap for the G8, a small step for the climate?”
I have mixed feelings about what has been happening at the G8 summit. On the one hand, agreeing on the 2 degree limit and including the key players India and China is definitely positive and a step in the right direction. But it comes very late – and we still don’t know how we’re actually going to get there.
WWF’s climate and energy chief Regine Günther came out with the adaptation of the Neil Armstrong quote I’ve used in the title. An 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is all very well, she says, but there’s still ambiguity about the reference year and no clear 2020 goal.
Of course we know this is especially to accommodate US President Barack Obama. He wants more time to get regenerative energy in place and do a bit more PR at home. By comparison with the bad ol’ Bush years, we have to be thankful the new administration has finally brought the US on board the climate ship. But time is running out.
According to the EU, to keep the temperature rise to a maximum 2°C (which would already have disastrous consequences for people in some areas of the globe), emissions would have to peak by 2020 and be halved by 2050 as against 1990 levels.
The Arctic sea ice is melting – decreasing in surface area and thickness – at an alarming rate. (Well it alarms a lot of us, anyway).
The Greenland Ice Sheet – the largest body of freshwater ice in the northern hemisphere – is losing mass. Leading ice scientist Dorthe Dahl-Jensen describes the ice sheet as the “awakening giant”. Increased melting and ice discharge would have major consequences for global sea level. Greenland is a key area in the global climate process. The warming climate is also already having a considerable impact on the lifestyle of the people of Greenland.
And that is why I’ll be spending the next 3 weeks travelling in Greenland, interviewing scientists and locals about what’s happening to the climate there, how we measure this and likely consequences for the population of Greenland and the areas of the world whose coastal areas are likely to “go under”.
DateJuly 9, 2009 | 1:59 pm
No, the Ice Blog has not Melted…
People have been asking why there have be no ice blog entries for a few weeks. Sorry, but I have been out of action. Yes, I know, we missed lots of opportunities to talk about the latest climate change developments, from international politics to alarming sea ice measurements and a record number of species under threat. But – sadly – these problems will stay with us for quite some time to come, so we’ll still have plenty of opportunities for debate.
A quick reply to KwanLam Wong, who has been asking how he can contribute to the blog from California. Please keep following it and commenting Kwanlam, and keep us posted on how climate change is affecting California. Your state’s financial problems seem to have been stealing the limelight (as well as Michael Jackon, of course). Otherwise California has the reputation of being a leader in the USA on environmental issues. How do you see that from the inside? An as an architect, are you designing buildings with a minimal environmental impact?
The big Ice Blog news is that I am off to GREENLAND, via Iceland next Monday. That will be my 3rd Arctic trip. More in the Ice Blog in the days to come.
DateJuly 8, 2009 | 2:37 pm
We haven’t heard a lot about the iron fertilisation controversy in the Antarctic for a while – at least not in the mainstream media.
(The German research vessel Polarstern, belonging to the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, conducting the research with Indian partners).
– See blog entries of 9.-15-1-2009 for the background –
Are you surprised to hear that the controversial experiment did not produce the desired results? Artificially fertlizing the ocean with iron is not a way to substantially reduce the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere!
It seems the scientists on board the Polarstern were surprised by what did actually happen during the German-Indian experiment.
DateMarch 26, 2009 | 10:48 am