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Climate change in pictures while you wait…

Alaska and south America are the regions where the glaciers are currently melting fastest, according to a report released in Cancun. I experienced that first-hand in Alaska in 2008, when I started the ice blog.

This is one of the pictures taken from the Begich Boggs glacier visitors centre. There’s a visiting centre purpose built to see the Portage glacier – but where the glacier has retreated so far it’s no longer visible from this point at all.In 2008, we were told it had receded more than 2 miles in 70 years.
On the last official day of Cancun, the wrangling is still going on – same procedure as every year? A freelance colleague dropped in just now . “There doesn’t seem to be anything happening in Cancun”.. he said. Yeah, that seems to be the feeling. My colleague Nathan Witkop from the Living Planet programme is there. You might like to read
his latest summary while you’re waiting.
I’ve also been keeping an eye on the Global Ideas blog You might enjoy a look at that.
And if you are interested in watching some more pictures and video and reading/hearing from some researchers in the field, have a look at these pictures from Lars Hansen who took some great shots at the Zackenberg Monitoring Station in Greenland.
That will all help pass the time waiting for the Cancun closer…

Date

December 10, 2010 | 2:31 pm

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Alarming rise in Arctic methane emissions

Sound familiar? Ice-blog readers will remember methane is more than 20 times as powerful as CO2 as a greenhouse gas, and that scientists in the Arctic are measuring the extent of methane emissions from melting permafrost.
There are billions of tonnes of methane captured in the Arctic soil. As temperatures rise and the permafrost melts, more methane is released. It increases the greenhouse effect further, resulting in a “feedback loop”, with the increased warming melting more permafrost and releasing even more methane.
Zackenberg station in Greenland, which I visited this year, is one of the Arctic stations measuring methane. If you haven’t heard the programme I made including interviews with Prof. Morten Rasch, who heads the Greenland environment monitoring programme, it’s available under the “climate” banner on the right of DW’s environment page. There’s also a photo gallery with brief texts if you don’t have the time to listen to the full feature.
Climate Monitoring in Arctic Greenland
Now a study presented in the journal Nature reports a massive rise in the amount of methane being released from the Arctic permafrost.
See also today’s edition of the Guardian.
Guardian’s David Adam on rise in Arctic methane emissions
Although only 2% of global methane comes from the Arctic, the increase is highest in the Arctic, which is warming much faster than the rest of the planet.
The Guardian quotes Prof. Paul Palmer from Edinburgh University as saying the study “does not show the Arctic has passed a tipping point, but it should open people’s eyes. it shows there is a positive feedback and that higher temperatures bring higher emissions and faster warming”.
Edinburgh Climate Expert Paul Palmer

Date

January 15, 2010 | 8:57 am

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Polar Bear at Zackenberg

I got a mail today from Lars Holst Hansen, deputy station chief during the summer season at Zackenberg Ecological Research Station, the one I visited in July, and a biologist with NERI, the National Environment Research Institute.
It seems there have been several polar bear visits to the station, right up on to the beach. Lars, many thanks for your short report. Here is one of Lars’ pictures.

PHOTO BY LARS HOLST HANSEN
You may well ask what a polar bear is doing on land like this at this time of the year, no ice in sight anywhere. Presumably he is hungry. It seems he also went close to some Zackenberg kayakers. I’m hoping Lars will send me the scientist’s  view of the visit.
Thanks again Lars, and look forward to hearing more from you.

Date

September 10, 2009 | 4:01 pm

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Unexpected Explorers

As we descended to the lake, I was surprised to see that the party waiting on the beach to be picked up was a different generation from the young scientists one tends to encounter in these remote and often trying areas. The two women and three men waving us in were, I discovered, the “British North East Greenland project”. Now retired, but lovers of the Arctic, they have all the necessary gear, bought special inflatable boats and come to this remote region every year for around 3 weeks, set up camp and go hiking, boating and collecting samples for various scientists. They had also made some archaeological finds. One of the ladies told me she had two artificial knees. She walked with a stick, but still managed to get up the ladder and into the twin otter, with a little help from her friends. More power to you folks, and if you read this when you get home, please put some info about your project onto the blog, and an email address where I can contact you, if you like. I think your project is great.
The group had their stuff all packed up, and I now found out why the front of the plane had been cleared.

The captain and co-pilot do everything on these routes, and we all helped get the equipment loaded onto the plane.

Once it was all inside, we just had to trust we wouldn’t need to reach that emergency exit.

Our next destination was Mesterswig, a Danish military aerodrome used, like Daneborg, as a drop-off and pick-up point.

My fellow travellers told me the government had been threatening to close it down for the last 20 years. With the latest resurge in military interest in the Arctic, it probably has a good chance of staying open.

Mesterswig control

The group has storage space in Mesterswig where they store their gear until next year. They’re well known and welcome. While they stowed it all, our copilot had a well-earned break on the runway. I wonder what insect repellent he uses. You can’t tell to look at him we were all under mega-attack from thousands of giant mosquitoes. (I’d have liked our Zackenberg insect experts Gergely and Tomas to have a look, but the only samples I have are somewhat squashed..)

From here, we headed down to Constable Point, for refuelling before we tackled the longer stretch to Iceland. (Flying from East to West Greenland goes, I’m afraid, via Iceland, there are few direct travel options). There were plenty more beautiful ice and snow views on route.This is a very spectacular part of the world.

We found the fire brigade waiting. We had been warned our captain would be radio reporting some engine trouble – to provide a fire alarm test for the ground team.

Well mastered.
The next entry will come from western Greenland.

Date

July 27, 2009 | 9:43 am

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Drop-off at Daneborg Base


This is the runway at Daneborg, on the coast, around 25 km from Zackenberg.
There’s still a little ice on the sea here.(But all the scientific research at Z. confirms the trend of a decrease in the perennial sea-ice).

There is an old trapper station here, used nowadays with the other buildings here by the Danish military SIRIUS patrol, the one that’s famous for its dogsled activities. That goes out to patrol the coast and surrounding areas in the winter.

Denmark is keen to establish its sovereignty here on the remote north-east coast. The national park is the biggest park in the world, and there’s not much in the way of human activity up here. The territory of East Greenland was disputed by Norway early in the 20th century. These days, there’s a lot of talk of increasing military activities up here because of the growing interest in the natural resources of the Arctic, especially the supplies of oil thought to lie hidden under the ice at the moment. The parties in the Danish parliament recently agreed to create a special Arctic Task Force, combining those elements of their military units (mainly for Greenland and the Faroe Islands) specialized in Arctic activities. A Greenland home rule adviser told me he does not see this as increased militarization of the Arctic, as some fear, but just as an organisational shift, which will not include more resources. It certainly means a change in focus.There are likely to be more aircraft coming in here, at any rate.
Denmark has put forward claims to extend the continental shelf by territory around Greenland. Other Arctic states have put in their own claims. The UN commission on the Law of the Sea has to decide who owns what territory and could therefore lay claim to any oil, gas or mineral reserves found there.
Fuel for the base and Zackenberg is shipped into Daneborg, then flown on in smaller quantities.

Time to take off, and for the next stretch I have the famous POF twin otter all to myself.

This is going to be spectacular, as we are moving in from the coast a little over the icy mountains. Taking pictures in this historic plane can be challenging:

But I have a couple of windows to choose from – as long as I can reach them without loosening the belt.

I love the changing landscape and all the features you can see in the snow, flying this low:


I have many more of these ice-blog views, but will close for now with this one.

Nicely framed, huh? Courtesy of Twin Otter Pof.
Next stop, Krume Langso, the “long, curved lake”.

Date

July 24, 2009 | 3:11 pm

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