Search Results for Tag: research
This year’s ice-blog destination is the Svalbard archipelago at 79° North, a focal point of the world’s Arctic research. Spitsbergen is the largest of the Svalbard islands, which are governed by Norway. Just 1200 km from the North Pole, scientists from all over the world monitor what’s happening to our climate and how changes affect ecosystems at the research station of Ny Alesund. This is also the spot where Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen started the first airship flight over the North Pole in 1926.
I took these pictures during a visit in 2007.
Once the site of a coal mine, around 30 scientists and crew now live in Ny Alesund through the dark, Arctic winter, in the world’s most northerly permanent settlement. When the snow starts to melt in spring and life awakes, biologists and glaciologists migrate to Svalbard to carry out their field research.
Amongst them this year is a team from the IFM GEOMAR, the Leibniz Insitute for Marine Sciences of Germany’s Kiel University, headed by Professor Ulf Riebesell. For the first time, they are cooperating with Greenpeace. The Greenpeace team is headed by Dr. Iris Menn and Martin Kaiser. The organisation’s ship the “Esperanza” is transporting the scientists and their special equipment to monitor the effect of ocean acidification on the Arctic ocean ecosystems off the coast of Spitsbergen.
Expedition prepares to depart – report by Chiponda Chimbelu
DateMay 18, 2010 | 3:28 pm
Climate and Volcanic Activity
I have been trying to pin down some elusive scientists this morning after reading a short article entitled “Research call to study climate link” on a double-page spread in the Guardian newspaper entitled “Volcano chaos”.
It quotes scientists in a series of papers published by the Royal Society calling for wide-ranging research into whether rising global temperatures could trigger more volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes or tsunamis.
Guardian online article The article says experts say global warming could affect these kinds of geological developments because it can move large amounts of mass on the planet’s surface. It seems logical that melting glaciers and rising sea levls would shift the distribution of huge quantities of water and that that could change pressure on the ground, possibly influencing ruptures or seismic shifts.
The paper quotes “research from Germany” as suggesting the earths crust could sometimes be close to moving so that quakes could be triggered by even tiny changes in surface pressure, e.g. from heavy rain. So far, my attempts to locate these German researchers this morning have been in vain. Ideas welcome.
Of course there are those who would say some of us are just obsessed by climate change and trying to relate it to everything. But if some scientists who have been looking into the distant past and think they can discern some evidence of significant warming being linked to geological activity then, it would seem foolhardy not to consider the possibility and feed the info into models for the future.
Meanwhile, that Icelandic volcano could be doing something for the climate by stopping all those planes from flying. I’m trying to get some figures on that. If I do, I’ll keep you posted.
DateApril 19, 2010 | 11:49 am
Cold Wind off the Pole
I never thought I would come to love the howling icy Arctic wind. But it has one big advantage: It blows the mosquitoes away. It’s Sunday morning, and I came outside to drink my tea, since somebody had left windows open and there seemed to be more “grozzies” inside than out. Now a stormy wind has blown up, the strongest I’ve felt here so far, whipping up the dirt all around, lashing the station flags and sending the little weather station spinning crazy. I’m on the sheltered side of the hut, but it would be tough going along the mountain ridges at the moment.
I’m hoping it will reduce to moderate but keep blowing in time for today’s expeditions. Things are starting to blow around, I will have to retreat indoors. So far only the girls are up, except Lone. Sunday is the one day the cook gets off and can have a lie-in. Everybody else can do the same, except Julie. She has to go down to the river and check up on water levels, sediment content etc. at 8 every morning. Sarah is also on the go. She’s made her sandwiches to take down to her plots, where she is hoping to spend most of the day. But in this wind, she won’t be able to work there. Once since she’s been here, they had a storm like this all night, she tells me.
Sarah is measuring the respiration and photosynthesis of controlled plots between the station and the Sound. She waters some every week, to simulate the effect of the increased precipitation that is forecast to become normal in this region as the climate changes. The results will go into her Master’s thesis for Uni in Copenhagen. She has measurements taken here over the last 10 years to compare with. I visited Sarah to see how she works, down at the plots last night.
I’m going to go to the methane monitors with Julie again for some special measurements today. But first she has to bring in the co2 monitor, which is still playing up. She’s going to take it apart in the lab. You are very far away from anywhere here if anything goes wrong.
Meanwhile Philip, our logistics expert, has succeeded in repairing the back-up generator, which had somehow blown. This is a separate machine which can give the station emergency power in the event of a fire or other incident in the main generator hut. We certainly don’t need power for light at this time, most of the time we’re even ok for heat. But imagine what would happen to the electronic equipment and all those frozen biological samples of all sorts (!) – if we had no electricity for the fridges and freezers (not to mention the food supplies)…
DateJuly 20, 2009 | 11:13 am
Zackenberg Station feels more like a camp, ten blue huts and some tent-like shelters in a wide valley, with snow-topped mountains behind and the water of the Young Sound fjord below. It is equipped with everything the scientists need for their “High Arctic research”, including wet and dry labs and all sorts of electronic monitoring equipment, but it remains a camp in a very remote area. It was set up 1995-96 and officially opened in ’97. It’s still small and exclusive, for a maximum of 25 people. There are only 13 of us right now, including the two “logisticians” Phillip and “Tower” and the cook, Lone.
The dirt runway can only take the Twin Otter or helicopters. At the moment, starting mid-July, there’s a plane once a week, as this is the high season. Up to last year, there was only one a fortnight. The station is only staffed in summer, June to September, as a rule.
We newcomers had our essential safety briefing with Phillip, our logistician, first thing this morning: radio use, flare pistols and how to use a rifle (!) Phillip is clearly a man who knows how to look after himself, looks tough and wiry, always has a knife in his belt and is clearly a good shot. In his black gear, including “Zero” (Zackenberg Station Logo) T-shirt and tammy, he could belong to some crack army unit (or a James Bond film) and he gives you the impression he is not a man to be trifled with. Still, he’s very patient with a visiting journo who has never fired a weapon in her life.
No, I’m not thinking of applying for the army or even our local “Schuetzenverein” (German traditional local hunting and shooting clubs) after this, but we are advised it’s a good idea to know how to fire a flare pistol and a rifle, in case of emergency (polar bears or musk oxen, plenty of the latter around here, although so far I’ve only seen the droppings and the fluff from their coats, but then I’ve only been here a day).
I was quite surprised by this, only ever having been in places where weapons are only handed out to people with licenses and training. Things are different in Greenland. Even Lone, our new cook, had to have a go with the gun (fresh meat for the kitchen?!).
I’m sure the guys all ducked for cover when I made my attempts, and I don’t think the polar bears or musk oxen have much to worry about on my account. The weather is still incredibly good, bright sunshine around the clock and clear blue skies, fresh cool Arctic air. I headed out towards the “climate station” this afternoon (took the radio, declined the rifle), where Julie Falk from Copenhagen was trying to fix the Co2 monitor. I’m really impressed at her technical know-how.
She tells me she has no choice, in this remote location, but is frustrated about the problems of getting spare parts. We also had a look at the methane measuring station. Zackenberg came up with some headline-making results about methane emissions in the Arctic. Terrestrial wetland emissions are the largest single source of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. The Zackenberg data provides hourly methane flux measurements from this high Arctic setting, into the late autumn and early winter, which means during the onset of soil freezing.
The scientists found out that the emissions fall to a low steady level after the growing season, but then increase significantly during the “freeze-in” period. Basically, the findings from here suggest that this could help explain the seasonal distribution of methane emissions from high latitudes, which had been puzzling scientists before. The methane is measured in glass traps which normally open and close automatically regularly and are linked to methane monitors.
Unfortunately, there’s a technical problem at the moment, but Julie was able to offload the data already logged there onto her laptop for the Zackenberg BASIC data base. More about that tomorrow, when I’ll be talking to our scientific leader Lars. If D. is reading this, remember you asked if this expedition would be very “physical”? Well so far everything here is being done on foot, with the ornithologists walking 25 km sometimes. So I think the answer is yes, and my trusty hiking boots are getting a good work-out.
DateJuly 17, 2009 | 9:01 am