Search Results for Tag: sea ice
Record melt helps first Chinese ship across Arctic
Returning after several trips, I’ve been catching up on the Arctic news and noted with concern but unfortunately not really surprise that the Snow Dragon or Xuelong, a Chinese icebreaker, has become the first ship from China to cross the Arctic Ocean. It arrived in Iceland after sailing the Northern Route, along the coast of Russia. The expedition leader Huigen Yang, head of China’s Polar Research Institute, said he had expected a lot more ice along the route. The sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean actually seems set to beat the record low from 2007. Clearly, Chinese interest is growing, as the melting ice opens up a shorter sea route and, of course potential access to oil, gas and minerals. The country has applied for observer status at the Arctic Council, which consist of the Arctic countries USA, Russia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark (because of Greenland) and Iceland. China is not the only interested party outside the Arctic states. Japan, South Korea, The European Commission and Italy are also applying. Germany, Britain, France, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands are already observers.
What clearer a signal could you get that climate change is affecting the Arctic than interest from the world’s number 2 economy, China, which, alas, is also the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter?
DateAugust 20, 2012 | 12:28 pm
Greenland ice melting in extra-warm Arctic season
Apologies for a lack of new posts over the last week. The ice blogger was offline “up north”, not quite in the Arctic, but on the Orkney isles, where pioneering companies are testing devices to turn the power of the sea into climate-friendly electricity. But more about that at a later stage.
The worrying news about Greenland and the Arctic has jumped to the top of the ice blog agenda. NASA images of the Greenland ice sheet have indicated that for a few days this month almost the entire surface of the “ice island” was melting. A giant iceberg also broke off the Petermann Glacier in Greenland.
This is part of an overall development in the Arctic, where the summer has been unusually warm. The US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) says a large portion of the sea route between Western Europe and the Pacific has as little ice as it would normally have at the END of the summer melt.
This type of widespread surface melting is not unprecedented, according to the NSIDC.It might happen around every 150 years in Greenland. But the difference is that previous events of this sort happened around 7,000 years ago when the sun was tilted in such a way that it sent more sunshine to extreme northern latitudes. This time, there is no solar tilt to explain the melt.
Mark Serreze, director and senior research scientist at the NSIDC says Arctic sea ice is also at the extreme low end of the satellite record for this time on year and could be on track to equal the 2007 record, when the Arctic ice reached its smallest size in the satellite record. The sea ice is in a “sorry state”, he says, with holes appearing in satellite images much like a Swiss cheese. What next?
DateJuly 30, 2012 | 9:54 am
North East passage opening up early this summer?
The North-East passage, the sea route that goes along the northern coast of Russia, looks as if it will be free of ice at a very early stage this summer, according to scientists from Germany’s AWI, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. Towards the end of last winter, the scientists found large areas of the Laptev Sea covered by ice which was only a maximum of 50 cm thick. This, they say, is unlikely to last long once the summer sun comes out. Previous measurements in 2007/2008 had recorded ice thicknesses of up to a metre around the same place . Dr. Thomas Krumpen, the expedition leader, said the team has been surprised by the measurements, taken by a special ice-depth sensor dangled from a helicopter. Dr. Krumpen says the wind is probably responsible. When the wind is blowing from land out on to the sea, it forces the pack ice from the Laptev Sea northwards. This leaves open areas of water at the coast, which cool out fast and form thin ice. But the scientists were not previously aware that the areas could be this big. In some places they flew a good 400 kilometres over thin ice. The team want to use the measurements to calibrate satellite data.
More information on the AWI website, but I’m afraid the English version of this story doesn’t seem to be available yet.
DateJune 8, 2012 | 2:42 pm
China and the Arctic – “a public area, just like the moon?
Now who could come up with a statement like that? It has to come from a country showing a growing interest in the region although it has no Arctic territory. The Chinese premier Wen Jiabao is coming to Europe tomorrow and the Arctic is to be a key focus of his trip. He’ll be spending eight days visiting Iceland, Sweden, Poland and Germany.
There are two main reasons for the Chinese interest: energy, and shipping routes. China is the world’s biggest consumer of energy and greatly interested in the resources becoming more easily accessible through climate change. The retreat of the sea ice is also opening up new routes for shipping in summer, which could cut the sea voyage between Shanghai and northern Europe by around 6,400 km. So there are difficult times ahead for those who want to protect the sensitive Arctic environment and wildlife from increasing traffic and risky exploration for oil, gas and minerals. I wrote about this some time ago, and it’s certainly going to keep coming up:
Arctic Regions Eye Nation’s Potential
DateApril 19, 2012 | 1:08 pm
TagsArctic, Arctic politics, China, sea ice, shipping
New climate model says 2° target not out of reach if….
Scientists from the Hamburg-based Max-Planck-Institute of Meteorology and the German Climate Computing Centre have calculated that the 2° limit for global warming could still be kept to. However, it would require immediate drastic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. So what’s new? I hear you say. The new element is the model the scientists are using. The new model developed by the Max-Planck-Institute using the high-powered computer capacity of the Hamburg centre integrates additional factors into its simulations for the 21st century, including the complex carbon cycle and dynamic role of vegetation, and compares numerous climate models from around the world with each other.The simulations indicate that if the CO2 concentration continues to rise as it is doing, we will be facing not only a considerable rise in temperature, but also an increase in the speed of ocean acidification.
DateFebruary 27, 2012 | 12:17 pm