Search Results for Tag: midnight sun
Changing Climate, Changing World
Changing shades of ice at 2am
I just read an advertisement for “mobile tourist cabins”. The main advantage listed is that you can move them around to cope with climate change, so that you can shift them with the ice sheet as it retreats.
Climate change is very obvious here, although I’ve met a few people who still think it could be just natural fluctuation. Some of them are people in the tourist industry. Jens Laursen, the manager of tourism in Kangerlussuaq is unwilling to accept a connection between emissions from air travel and retreating ice. He is, of course, dependent on people coming to Greenland by air. Flying is the main way to get anywhere here, and the distances are huge on the world’s biggest island. In winter, dogsled has traditionally been the main means of transport, not only for personal use, but for instance for fishermen, who bring large quantities of halibut they catch by a long line dropped through holes in the ice over the snowy slopes to Ilulissat. But this is losing importance, as the season when there’s enough hard-packed snow for it to be viable is becoming shorter, and the winters become less predictable.
Accounts from the locals here back up what the scientists are telling us. Morten Rasch, the man behind the Zackenberg ecological monitoring programme, for example, stresses that the variability of the climate will increase. Yesterday I interviewed Karen Filskov, who comes from Ilulissat and now works for Destination Avannaa -the regional office promoting development in the huge region of North Greenland, Qaasuitsup kommunia. It’s said to be the biggest municipality in the world in terms of area, with 660,000 km2. She told me a series of winters in a row up to 2006 had been so mild the fishermen could fish from boats in the bay rather than taking the dogsleds to the ice. A lot of them then got rid of their dog teams, which are expensive to feed. Then the last two winters were particularly harsh. The water was frozen, and they had no dogs. It’s becoming increasingly changeable, she says.
Karen told me there are still 3,000 dogs in Ilulissat. Most of them now have to be kept outside the town centre – admittedly not far away. There’s a weird rugged rocky area dotted with little dog kennels and huskies – chained so they don’t run around fighting in packs – dozing in the heat beside their sleds.
The captain of the “Pearl”, a boat that takes people to see calving glaciers up the coast, told me he had not only noticed differences in his work on the water. He used to travel around, for instance to matches with his local football team, using the dogsled in winter. Now, he says, he can only rely on that for a few weeks rather than a few months. Incidentally, I talked to him with the assistance of Laali Berthelsen from Nuuk, the capital of Greenland.
She’s working here as a guide in between her studies. She’s one of the few people here who seems to have recognised the potential of learning languages and the tourism industry. Most of the people working as guides here are from Denmark or other European countries. It seems there’s still a lack of locals with the necessary language skills. Nowadays, the children (and there are plenty of them here) are learning English at an early stage in school, so perhaps the next generation will be different.
Laali also told me she used to get new skis every Christmas as a child in Nuuk. These days she has to go somewhere else if she want’s enough snow to ski.
Ilulissat’s glacier, Sermeq Kujalleq (Jakobshauen) and the ice fjord (Kangia) are striking witnesses to the process of global change (assuming you know what they were like before, that is).
The glacier discharges ice from the inland ice sheet into the sea. The pieces that break off are stranded in the fjord, where the water is fairly shallow, resulting in the spectacular jam of icebergs, some smooth, some jagged, over kilometres, right down to the mouth at Ilulissat. But the glacier itself has retreated massively, especially since 2001. Karen tells me the icebergs are smaller (although still huge), because the ice is also thinner.
DateJuly 31, 2009 | 7:57 pm
Ilulissat: the best things in life are free
I have now arrived in Ilulissat, which means icebergs in the Greenlandic language. It’s not hard to see why, or why it’s UNESCO World Heritage. The beauty and uniqueness of the icebergs floating around so close made up for some initial problems with the operators who take lots of money to transport people to view the marvels of the site. Fortunately I chanced upon a wooden walkway leading on to a rough trail marked here and there with cairns and yellow dots, which leads over the rocks to the icefjord. I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening than watching the icebergs shift slowly and change colour in the light of the midnight sun.
DateJuly 28, 2009 | 11:39 pm
Snow-white Hares in the Midnight Sunlight
Last night at the roof count, Jannik saw three Arctic hares. When I was going back to the dormitory hut in the early hours of this morning (it’s hard to go to bed early when there is all this beautiful sunshine) after discussing insects, global warming and ecological footprints with Gergely Várkonyi, from Hungary originally, now Finland, we saw some white patches on the river bed, then heading up onto the grass.
In all we saw nine Arctic hares, looking somewhat surreal, snowy white patches on the green grass. So much for nature’s camouflage. And I was able to make an entry in the station’s wildlife-spotting log.
DateJuly 22, 2009 | 9:10 am
Late Night Ice
I wanted to go down and look at what’s known as “the harbour”, taking advantage of the long hours of sunlight. Lars, who’s the deputy scientific leader and in charge of the station at the moment, kitted me out with a vhf radio in case of emergencies. I followed “the road” (tracks made by the camp vehicle, a funny contraption with 3 wheels on either side) to the beach of the Sound and was rewarded by finding giant chunks of ice along it and spectacular views of the water in that special deep blue you get in the Arctic summer night.
DateJuly 15, 2009 | 2:45 pm
A last look at Arctic Tromsö for this time.
Mind your step?
The Arctic Frontiers conference came to an end in Tromsö on Friday with more presentations and q/a sessions on different aspects of scientific research and findings on the region, from deepsea observatories to melting permafrost and the problems of climate change for indigenous peoples, including reindeer-herders in Arctic areas.
The papers are all available online.
Pick up some scientific papers from Arctic Frontiers
Meanwhile there’s been no stop to developments on climate change in the headlines. President Obama is going full speed ahead with his plans to tackle climate change.
The German government has reached an agreement on a (highly controversial)package to make people scrap their old cars, buy new ones, and – ideally, in theory – reduce emissions.
The German government has also given the go ahead for the iron fertilization experiment in the Antarctic we were discussing before I left for Tromso.
Latest on iron
WWF and others are protesting. There have been some alarming measurements of warming in the Antarctic. The new international Renewable Energies Agency has been launched. And WWF has come up with a new study on the economics of combatting climate change.
The Ice Blogger could blog on all day. Instead, I’ll leave you to check out the links and enjoy a couple of pics of the amazing colours of Arctic Norway from the air.
DateJanuary 27, 2009 | 11:54 am