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Back in the Arctic
Well, here I am,Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Longyearbjen tonight. Every time I catch my first glimpse of those snowy mountain tips rising out of the clouds, I know why I love the Arctic and feel so concerned about the rate at which it is warming. Let me just share some of those images of the trip with you for now.
On the approach to Tromso, Norway’s “Gate to the Arctic”.
Svalbard peeping out of the clouds.
Moonscape in white?
Its their home:
But this fella’s reduced to keeping a wary eye on the luggage coming into Svalbard airport.
This is the view from the runway. And people ask me why I’m so keen on such a cold place…
DateMay 26, 2010 | 5:55 pm
Heading for Arctic Spitsbergen
(c) Jiri Rezac/Greenpeace
This is the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza, which is already steaming up to the Arctic, carrying special equipment from the IFM Geomar, Kiel University, which I’ll talk more about later when I get a chance to see it for myself and interview the experts on exactly what it will help them find out and how.
As I write this, I am still in Germany, packing my cold-weather gear and reporting equipment, getting ready to fly up to Longyearbjen on Svalbard, then on to Ny Alesund, where I will join the Esperanza and her crew for a few days.
This is Greenpeace scientist Dr. Iris Menn.
(Photo by Daniel Mueller/Greenpeace.) She is one of the key figures in this whole enterprise. She\’s also packing right now, as well as preparing the expedition, and will be joining the boat up at Ny Alesund later. It takes a while for the boat to sail up to the Arctic, so not everyone is able to travel this more leisurely way.
The Greenpeace boat is spending the summer up there and ‘ll be joining them and the team from the IFM-Geomar, that’s the Institute for Marine Sciences at Germany’s Kiel University, for the first part of the expedition. As mentioned in a previous entry and described in our DW article, (link provided last time), the team will be looking at how acidification affects the Arctic ocean ecosystems and biodiversity there. And if you ever catch yourself out thinking there can”t be much life in that dark cold water down there, maybe these pics will change your mind.
They show a type of algae and a type of sea anemone. Beautiful? I got them from Max Schwanitz, who’s in charge of the scientific diving team with the Alfred Wegener Institute and is actually now back up at Ny Alesund getting ready for the season. He took these in the Kongsfjord, which is where I’ll be heading very soon.
The acidity of the oceans is increasing because the greenhouse gas CO2 not only warms up the planet but also leads to greater acidification of the oceans. The oceans soak up CO2. In fact they have absorbed about a third of the CO2 roduced by us humans since the Industrial Revolution. The CO2 is converted into carbonic acid in the water. This makes the water more acidic. This affects the polar areas worse than others, because more CO2 is absorbed in cold temperatures.
There hasn’t been too much research into exactly what effects this has on marine ecosystems. Scientists suspect it will have a massive effect on biodiversity, and that’s what the team from Greenpeace and Kiel will be looking into. More soon.
DateMay 24, 2010 | 3:47 pm
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
The Arctic headlines that weren’t?
Although I’m a journalist myself I still often find myself wondering why some things make it into the headlines with some media and others don’t. Sometimes you hear something in the news in the morning that disappears very rapidly. And sometimes, especially if you’re interested in and concerned about climate change, you read and hear things that shock or worry you then, again, don’t make it into any other media.
I have a couple of examples here. The first I can find an explanation for, although I don’t find it justified and hope the situation will change in the next few weeks.
Scientists from one of Germany’s most renowned scientific institutes, the Leibniz Institute for Marine Sciences at Kiel University, set off on an Arctic expedition today.They’ve joined forces with Greenpeace. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is transporting some giant “test-tubes” up to the Svalbard archipelago, where they’ll be lowered into the water to look into the effects of climate change on the marine ecosystems. The scientists are particularly interested in the acidification of the oceans. I’ll be writing more about this later – in fact I’ll be catching up with the team and finding out more first-hand. But the reason I’m mentioning it today is that when I searched the news agencies, I didn’t find anything in English about this venture, although it’s using new, unique technology, and we know how susceptible the Arctic is to climate change – and what a key role it plays in regulating the world’s climate. I assume the reason is the ship left from the German port of Kiel, so only attracted German media. But come on folks, this is not a German story, the implications are as global as you can get.
I wasn’t able to go up to Kiel for the launch, but one of my colleagues went, so I’ll have more on that soon.
The other story which is even more worrying is one I came across in the online version of the German news magazine Focus
It’s headlined (in German)”Melting poles: No Ice, No Summer”.
The article reports on a story in the magazine Science which warns of the dangerous effects of melting ice in the Arctic and Antarctic on the deep ocean currents which help regulate the climate. In a highly over-simplified nutshell, it seems possible that at some point in the future, melting fresh water from the glaciers could reduce the salinity of the sea-water to the extent where the pump effect of dense salt water sinking into the depths would be hampered. This could interrupt the flow of warmer water which helps keep the climate of the British isles, southern Scandinavian and part of northern Germany mild.
Now why am I finding it difficult to get any more information on this from other media?
DateMay 14, 2010 | 1:25 pm