Search Results for Tag: sea ice
Is the Arctic Fridge becoming a Heater?
I’ve just come back from the studio where I was recording an interview with Dr. Martin Sommerkorn, Senior Climate Advisor with WWF’s Arctic Programme.
He was talking about the drastic decline of Sea Ice in the Arctic. It seems set to reach its lowest ever, and he tells us the scientists are desperately trying to revise their models to reflect this. “Reflect” is an appropriate word, because the most worrying thing is that white snow and ice reflect the sun’s heat back up off the earth, keeping the planet cooler. Darker water, on the other hand, absorbs it, heating up the planet further.
He says the Arctic could soon stop acting as a fridge that cools the planet and become a heater.
He explains it very well, so here’s the interview for a listen.
There will be a longer version available later in the week. I’m keeping it short here because it not everybody has broadband and a fast computer.
DateSeptember 15, 2008 | 12:50 pm
Lions, Giraffes and Hippos on Ice ?
So what are these African animals (I took the pictures in Tanzania) doing on the Ice Blog? Of course it’s all about biodiversity.
The Arctic is particularly sensitive to climate change and acts as a kind of early warning system. At the same time, ice melting up there will have consequences for the whole planet. I’ve gone on a lot about how melting sea ice affects the flora and fauna in Arctic regions. There’s also been a mention of how melting glaciers change the temperature, salinity and light conditions of the ocean. I’m currently working on a radio feature on my trip out onto the sea ice up in the Arctic with the “ambassadors” from the Climate Change College and scientist Chris Petrich. (Listen out for that in Living Planet). One of the main subjects of his research is the “albedo effect”. That is all about how the whiteness of ice and snow reflects solar radiation back up off the earth’s surface. When the snow cover decreases, the “melt ponds” are a much darker cover, and that absorbs warmth – exacerbating the overall warming effect. So, polar areas have a huge importance for the planet as a whole. Then there is the methane (around 23 times more powerful than c02 as a climate gas) being released from the huge areas of melting permafrost.
All this effects not only the area where it happens, but the whole planet. And of course, the sea level is rising, which will have disastrous effects for all the low-lying areas of the globe.
All our species of plants and animals are dependent on particular habitats and living conditions – from polar bears to giraffes, hippos, kangaroos or cuckoos. (Listen to Alison Hawkes on the plight of the “bird of the year” in the Black Forest. Will cuckoos exist soon only in those quaint – or exasperating – clocks?)
The Cuckoo Story
Last night the IUCN and UNEP staged an event here in Bonn to mark Biodiversity Day.
More about the IUCN
During it, I met Pavan Sukhdev,who’s heading the TEEB project,that is a study on The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. I felt very privileged to have the chance to talk to the man who’s in charge of what some people say could do for biodiversity what Nicholas Stern’s report did for climate change. The idea is to put a price on nature and make it clear, in economic terms, what it is worth to protect our biodiversity. The first part of the report will be presented in Bonn next week, but he did give me an idea of the scale of things. You can read the interview here:
Pavan Sukhdev on putting a price on nature
DateMay 23, 2008 | 8:43 am
TagsAfrica, Arctic, Biodiversity, Climate, Climate Change College, CO2, economics, feedback loops, IUCN, Living Planet, methane, permafrost, sea ice, Sea level, TEEB, UNEP, wildlife
Cool Forecasts – a Hot Topic?
They have no doubt that the planet is warming: Arctic explorers Marc Cornelissen,head of the Climate Change College, and archaeologist Anne Jensen, who rescues historic burial sites from being washed into the sea as a result of coastal erosion. (The sea ice is a natural protection barrier. As it diminishes, the land is left more vulnerable to the elements). I took the photo at Point Barrow, the northernmost point in the USA and well into the Arctic Circle.
People here in Germany are talking about a new study published in the journal Nature last week suggesting a possible lull in man-made global warming. (More in the “eco-news” bulletin which Nina Haase wrote for this week’s Living Planet programme):
Scientists and politicians are worried that this might make people think they don’t have to rush to take action after all. The study doesn’t dispute the human role in global warming, but it predicts a cooling down from recent average temperatures between now and 2015, as a result of a natural and temporary shift in ocean currents. Now, experts on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are worried that people might become relaxed again about reducing emissions. There’s no doubt about the fact that people are more likely to take action if they see clear evidence of climate change and are worried about droughts and floods.
(Ines, I thought of you this morning when I read in the paper that Barcelona is relying on tankers bringing in drinking water.)
I was on a panel at an event here in Bonn today where some of the journalists – discussing the role of the media in reporting on climate change – said doubt had been cast on the methods used in the “cooling” report anyway.
In the hope that it might convince some more undecided readers of this blog (I realize of course I could be preaching to the converted with this), I’d suggest a listen to George Divoky, a dedicated ornithologist working on Cooper Island, in the Beaufort Sea north of the Arctic town of Barrow. George has been observing guillemots for 33 years and has quite clearly seen the evidence of climate change. The interview is attached for your listening pleasure. It’s also featured in our Living Planet programme this week.
This shows climate ambassador Cara, talking to a young eskimo,Kayan, who told us he is very concerned about the warming climate and the changes to the sea ice on which the eskimo culture depends so much. Cara is also on this week’s Living Planet programme.
Trying to look at ancient burial sites at Point Barrow. This shows typical everyday working conditions for scientists and other experts trying to keep track of coastal erosion and the ancient sites in danger of disappearin there.
DateMay 14, 2008 | 4:13 pm
TagsAlaska, archaeology, Arctic, Barrow, birds, Climate Change College, Cooper Island, erosian, indigenous, Inupiat, IPCC, Living Planet, Oceans, science, sea ice, USA, Warming
A Hardy Species: Arctic Scientists
Now I know what it feels like to be a scientist in the Arctic, out on the sea ice in a biting wind. As German sea-ice researcher Chris Petrich, puts it, “it’s really cool”.
If you’re like him, a northern type, who doesn’t like getting too hot – perfect. From the observer’s point of view – you really need to have a calling to work outside in these conditions. To quote one of the students: “I’d go mental if I had to do this in these temperatures all the time”.
Chris was undoubtedly the hero of the day. He works at Fairbanks Uni and comes up to Barrow at least once a month to monitor the development of the sea ice and the snow covering it. Current climate change models have various problem areas – one of them is the “albedo effect”. Snow reflects heat back up away from the earth. Melting snow leaves darkish puddles, which absorb the heat, thus exacerbating the warming further. But it’s a complex phenomenon to calculate. And there’s a need for more data.
Today, the climate ambassadors were detailed to help Chris with his measurements, drilling holes into the snow (with hand drills, great for keeping warm) and measuring the depth. “Full Arctic gear” was required, “take what you think you need and add an extra layer” was Chris’ advice. I was comfortable with five, almost full-face balaclava and the parka hood. Once my sunglasses had frozen over, I knew why they provided us with snow goggles.
We headed off at one, with Erika, one of the CC students who studied in the US, driving us in the BASC (Barrow Arctic Science Centre) van to the “end of the road“. (They’re a versatile bunch.)The trouble was, it was hard to tell whether the road had ended or not, since it’s all covered in snow anyway. Then we changed into the preferred mode of transport out across the snowy desert that is the frozen Arctic: snow machines, or skidoos, towing long wooden sledges, two on the “doo”, the rest sitting as flat as possible on the sledge. We had 3 armed eskimo “bear guides” with us, keeping watch throughout, as polar bears are common here. Chris has encountered them several times – close encounters fortunately of the brief and “mostly harmless” kind. At the moment, my guide tells me, they’re more likely to be further out, finishing off the carcasses of two recently “harvested” bowhead whales.
Chris was happy to be able to measure on a windy day to compare with yesterday, when the weather was calmer. So at least one person was happy about the wind-chill factor. The measurements took around four hours. The “trainee scientists” worked hard and successfully handed in their measurements. “Spread the word about climate change and the importance of polar research” were Chris’s parting words. That’s our mission Chris, and thanks for an exciting and informative day on the ice.
Great website with animated charts of sea ice – and the daily measurements
And another one on combining Inupiaq and western ice science:Barrow Ice Trails
Simon sent in a question about the insulation of houses, which I’d just like to touch on before I close.
Iglu is an eskimo word for dwelling, not necessarily the ice-house we tend to think of. Traditionally, people built to keep the cold out. I’ve talked to one of our bear guides and he tells me they have thick walls and thick roof insulation – but still need a lot of heat in the winter.
DateMay 2, 2008 | 8:19 am
TagsAlaska, Arctic, Barrow, BASC, Climate, Climate Change College, ice, polar bears, science, sea ice, snow, USA, Youth
Cool news from the Antarctic as preps for Alaska continue in German spring weather
Yesterday I read an interesting press release from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Germany’s polar research institute. It made the “panorama” page of our regional paper this morning. Their research vessel the Polarstern has just completed an Antarctic cruise and come up with the puzzling result that the deep sea in the Antarctic is actually getting colder. At the same time satellite images from the Antarctic summer have shown the largest extent of sea-ice on record. The question is whether this is the start of a new trend, or just a one-off. The last ARCTIC summer was the warmest on record. The trouble is this latest report on Antarctic cooling might make a lot of people think global warming isn’t a danger after all.
See the latest information on the AWI English web page
Meanwhile, here in Bonn, Germany,it is beginning to feel like spring. The tulips in my garden are in full bloom. After a long cold, wet spell, it looks as if it’s going to heat up in the course of the week – in time to make sure my transition to the Alaskan Arctic is a bit of a shock to the system.
I’ve decided to look out some of my favourite ice and snow pictures to put us all in the right mood.
“Cloud wisps over Ny Alesund”. This shows fjord and glaciers taken from the French-German Arctic research base in Ny Alesund on Svalbard, Spitzbergen last June. I was lucky to get a couple of days of this sort of weather. It’s more likely to be overcast. But even those days still have a certain charm. The colours look completely different, as in this pic:
This is me in my survival suit at the Kongswegen glacier, taken on the same trip. The photo was taken by Rainer Vockenroth, the head of the research base, which is run jointly by the French and the German polar research institutes.We went along the glacier in a small boat. The water was 2°C, which means you can become unconscious in five minutes – unless you’re wearing one of these uncomfortable but admittedly useful outfits.
DateApril 22, 2008 | 7:51 am
TagsAlaska, Antarctic, Arctic, AWI, Barrow, Climate, Climate Change College, Germany, Inupiat, Polarstern, sea ice, Svalbard, USA