Search Results for Tag: Svalbard
Who needs the Arctic Coal Mine?
How’s this for a bizarre story to end the week:
Greenpeace has been protesting on Svalbard, Spitsbergen, which belongs to Norway, drawing attention to the fact that coal is still being mined there and fired – amongst other places – in German power stations!
60% of the island is still covered with glaciers – and they’re melting at a record rate. The whole Arctic, as we know, is being affected much worse and faster than the rest of the planet by climate change.
The Greenpeace protesters are targeting the German government and public in particular, given that a big German company is one of the ones using the coal. Their poltical point is also that Germany is still planning to build new coal-fired plants, in spite of the impact they will have on the climate. Greenpeace is calling on Chancellor Angela Merkel – re-elected just last weekend – to re-think the coal policy and put more of an effort into combatting climate change.
There are probably very few people who know there’s still coal being mined on Spitsbergen. Well, let’s see whether this gets onto German tv news this evening. “A hae’ ma doots”, as they say in Scotland (Translation: I have my doubts). Top marks for trying, though, it takes considerable effort to get up to Spitzbergen to mount a protest.
Greenpeace blogger from the Svalbard protest
World leaders block Arctic coal shipment??
DateOctober 2, 2009 | 2:19 pm
Found any rubber ducks recently?
If you happen to be fishing or hunting in the Baffin Bay area (relatively unlikely in itself) and you come across a rubber duck (!) – don’t just mutter to yourself about pollution reaching remote areas. You could help some of the world’s leading scientists find out more about melting glaciers and climate change.
Rubber ducks aren’t something you’d usually associate with NASA, but then again, you always have to expect the unexpected here.
The grand total of 90 ducks were put into the ice of a Greenland glacier in August by a NASA scientist Alberto Behar, to help find out why glaciers head towards the sea faster in summer. He also used a sophisticated probe,with measuring equipment and a gps transmitter. But it’s hardly surprising that it’s the ducks that make the headlines.
Unfortunately, none of them have been reported so far.
You can read the whole story from Reuters here
Scientists know quite a lot about this particular glacier, the Jakobshavn glacier, because it accounts for a fair percentage of the ice that comes off Greenland. But even the experts don’t know everything, for instance how exactly the water flows off and how this influences the movement of the glaciers and their speed.
I’m using the theme of “the lengths scientists have to go…” as an excuse to put up this picture from Svalbard.
It shows Bob and Sebastian – two scientists I interviewed there – rushing to salvage “the drone” – a camera + gps on a mini hang-glider, being used to photograph snow melt and water flow.
We’ve been hearing a lot about the Arctic sea ice melting recently, but of course the thing about Greenland is that it has so much land-based ice. So when it melts – unlike the sea ice – it increases the sea level.
Scientists from the eastern German Technical University of Dresden have just published a study confirming that the Baltic Sea leavel is rising faster than expected on account of global warming. It seems it has risen 15 cm in the last hundred years. A more worrying result is that over the past 20 years, the annual level rise has doubled, to 3 mm every 12 months – in accordance with the global trend. The scientists attribute this to melting glaciers and thermal expansion of the water.
Article on Dresden Uni webpage (German only, as far as I can see)
Readers might also be interested in the RealClimate blog, which is written by climate scientists. There is currently a debate going on there about sea level rise.
Real Climate Science Blog
DateSeptember 22, 2008 | 9:43 am
Climate Change threatening Arctic Seed Vault
I heard one piece of news this week which shocked me – and it worries me that it didn’t make its way into most of the media.
Earlier this year, the Global Seed Vault was opened on the Norwegian Arctic island of Spitsbergen. The idea is to store seeds of all the earth’s important plants, so that if we should experience any kind of major catastrophe, from nuclear explosions to mass epidemics or – yes – climate change, there could be a new start with the seeds from this bunker. It’s built into a hill, supposedly covered with permafrost.The seeds have to be kept between minus 18 and minus 20 degrees C.
But the vault hasn’t even survived one polar summer, with temperatures on the rise. The permafrost has partially thawed and the entrance tunnel to the vault has been damaged.
The Global Seed Vault management seem to be playing this down and say they’ll just have to use the bunker’s cooling system more often. But surely, that’s not quite the point?
Story and pictures on Spiegel Online
And here’s the link to the Global Seed Vault project:
All about the Spitsbergen bunker:
DateSeptember 11, 2008 | 7:38 am
Back on the Blog
The only Arctic areas I’ve seen in the last few weeks have been from the air.
(Doesn’t this remind you of a dino in the snow?)
Exactly one month since the last entry, I’m back at my desk in Deutsche Welle in Bonn and raring to blog.I’ve been in the USA during an interesting time, with the election campaign in full swing – and climate change high on the agenda. People are finally accepting that global warming is not just a figment of somebody’s imagination.
(Pools forming from melting snow in the Arctic).
It’s interesting to see both candidates falling over each other to be the one to save the planet from global warming. With oil prices as they are, the debate over opening protected areas, like the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, for oil exploration,has been a real eye-opener. At the beginning of my trip, Republican contender John McCain was still opposing offshore drilling. During it, he changed his mind and approved President Bush’s decision to lift the ban, supposedly to make more oil available and have an impact on prices. It seems to me the only likely impact is to appeal to any gullible, undecided voters, who might be fooled into thinking this is the way to give them cheap gas.
Barack Obama stood firm in opposing further offshore drilling. And his fellow Democrat Al Gore issued a challenge to the nation to make a complete shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy within 10 years. Well, that is, indeed, an ambitious goal, but then – as Gore said – so was putting a man on the moon. Where there’s a (political) will, there’s a way.
One of the interesting things I came across while travelling in the US state of Washington was the Western Climate Initiative, a group of North American states seeking ways of reducing emissions. It shows that a lot can be done at regional level, even if there is a national government which refused to sign Kyoto or introduce binding emissions targets.
More info on the Climate Alliance of US and Canadian states
If anyone living in a country with a “developing economy” and working on a local sustainable energy project is reading this, by the way, you might be interested in applying for an award. You’ll find the details here:
Global Green Energy Awards 2008
During a conference at Stanford University in California, I felt the effect of the forest fires, creating smog over the whole area. In fact smoke from forest fires is being measured even in the remote areas of the Arctic. One measuring station is in Barrow, which I visited just last month:
The other is on Svalbard, in the Norwegian Arctic, which I visited for a programme last year, as part of our National Science Foundation-funded international radio collaboration to mark the International Polar Year:
More Arctic and Climate News from the NSF
Picture Gallery from Ny Alesund, Svalbard
I found it a bit bizarre to read this morning that there is something like a positive side-effect of all this: it could temporarily reduce the melting rate of the Arctic’s ice, because less solar radiation gets through. Researchers from the University of Colorado and NOAA are analyzing how smoke influences the Arctic climate relative to the amount of snow and ice cover.
Read a summary on the website, CIRES and University of Colorado
One of the big topics at the conference I was attending at Stanford a month ago was how climate change will result in increasing migration, with people forced to move to escape flooding, drought or extreme temperatures and weather conditions. I was interested to read today that there are some optimists who see climate change not only as a huge threat to the planet, but also as an opportunity to turn politics into “collective action” – by including ALL countries in tackling the challenge, not just the rich.
I’ll sign off today with that piece of food for thought. Here’s the link to the article. (Go on, it’s a shortie, I promise).
Climate Change as an Opportunity for Cosmopolitan Action? (By Ulrich Beck)
DateJuly 23, 2008 | 10:39 am
Inspired to Save the Planet
Today is the end of the cruise…
but definitely not the end of our voyage!
Sad, but full of motivation and inspiration, we left the ship today in the morning.
The last week was a lifetime experience for all of us and now we are all just about to start establishing our global movement against climate change!
We are still in Longyearbyen today, and tomorrow we are all heading back to Oslo.
This morning we had a very interesting lecture by Jack Kohler. He is something like a god amongst the glaciologists. He told us that all glaciers are melting all over Svalbard, at an increasing rate. We are not only seeing these trends here, but also in the rest of the world. And learning about this has been our challenge – our role is to be communicators about the impacts of climate change, whether this is melting glaciers, the extinction of the King of the North Pole (the polar bear), or how the effects here represent the potential global catastrophe if we do not take the initiative and act now.
Although our time here together is coming to the end, this is by no means the last you will here from us. ‘Us’ being not only the 18 voyage participants, but the other hundreds of thousands of concerned people who are ready for a global shift. Like never before are we going to talk and work on this issue, in order to protect, you, me, the planet and the many other people who unfortunately have no voice in this matter. Personally I cannot wait for the next chapter of this movement, and I’d love for you all to join me. You can keep updated with what we are up to by continuing to reading our blogs. Even better, I’d love to be reading about what you too are up to. Inspire me to inspire others.
And thanks to Timm Christmann from WWF for taking the pictures!!
DateJune 19, 2008 | 1:35 pm