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
"Russian" for Control of the Melted Arctic?
Chaudhary has thanked the Ice Blog for “very cool and also very hot information about ice”. Thanks for your interest Chaudhary, hope you’ll carry on reading and sending me feedback.
Keeping my eye out for the latest “cool and hot” ice info this week, I’m afraid it’s the Russians who’ve been making the most headlines. President Medvedev has told his people to draft a law marking out Russia’s borders in the Arctic. This is all part of an ongoing dispute between various countries on who can lay claim to which parts of the Arctic region. The parties have actually agreed to let the UN decide on this. Russia, Canada, The United States, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland) are the rivals for control. Interest has increased since the US Geological Survey said back in July that some 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30% of its undiscovered gas lies under the Arctic seabed.
It’s a sad state of affairs, but there are actually people looking forward to further melting of the Arctic ice, which could give easier access to more oil and gas. Burning it would then “fuel” the global warming process further and reduce the pressure to increase the use of renewable energy sources.
Representatives of the five “Arctic” countries had a meeting in Greenland last week, but not a lot seems to have come out of it. That’s one of the issues I discussed with Dr. Martin Sommerkorn, WWF’s Arctic climate specialist.
You can listen to or download that longer version of the interview here.
Worrying news. At the same time, the Russians are increasing the pressure to let them exploit the region’s natural resources.
Meanwhile, the official figures on the extent of the Arctic ice confirm the continuing decline.The website of the National Snow and Ice Data Center has the latest information.
Facts and figures on the current state of the Arctic sea ice
DateSeptember 18, 2008 | 11:18 am
The Liberty to Rant…
When members of my family in the UK talk about somebody “ranting on”, they’re normally not being flattering. The suggestion is that they get carried away with a particular “hobbyhorse” kind of issue. That’s probably why I was surprised the first time (quite a long time ago) I heard colleagues at the BBC use the term to mean a “form of journalistic expression”. It doesn’t have an exact equivalent in German (or in the German media?) – correct me if you can come up with one! There are political commentaries, the “Glosse” (anybody got a good translation for that)but not one single word for the right to go on at length in a very personal manner about something you feel strongly about. Right,blogs are the ideal place for that. Ha! Found my medium.
I’ve been reading a German book called “Öko” (translates as eco)- “Al Gore, the New Fridge and Me”, by journalist Peter Unfried. It’s all about how Al Gore’s film, amongst other things, inspired him to try to live a sustainable lifestyle without becoming a fanatic or a “green weirdo”. (I came across an interesting climate blog as I was looking at other opinions on the book. Most of the entries are in German, but not all. Here’s the link:)
Climate Blog by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, “the green political foundation”
I can sympathise with a lot of Peter Unfried’s experiences. One of the issues is plane travel. I got an email from my sister this week about our problems trying to find a weekend for a family reunion. She mentions, kind of tongue-in-cheek, something about me trying to save polar bears but flying around the world for conferences and reporting trips. It’s a tough one. Of course you can say you compensate by paying into the funds that plant forests etc. And it is my job to report on things and draw attention to global warming, endangered species etc. But she has got a point and, yes Sis, I have got a guilty conscience. Her other point (equally tongue-in-cheek sister, I assume?!) was the summer in northern England was so bad maybe a bit of warming wouldn’t do any harm. Well that brings me to the summer here in Bonn, Germany, which has just come to an end – from the meteorological point of view. It was something like 1.6 degrees warmer than the long-term average. But we had far less sunshine than in other years. And there was a shortage of rain. Now I still managed to get enough water for my garden from the rain barrels, and water warm enough to shower – MOST of the time from the solar collectors. But this is making us think whether our project of putting photovoltaic cells on the roof is really going to be a good idea. A lot of people think climate change will just mean better weather for countries in northern and central Europe. In fact it’s much more complicated than that, as this summer’s statistics for my own region here could seem to indicate. In degrees Centigrade it was warmer, but subjectively we feel it was a poor summer with so many dull days.
Meanwhile, I’m still watching the US election campaigns with interest and concern. My colleague Nancy Greenlease gives an interesting assessment after watching last week’s Democratic Congress.
Listen to Nancy’s report
Public attention has turned to the story of Sarah Palin’s daughter’s teenage pregnancy. Well, these things happen. What’s worrying me is that the governor of Alaska and candidate for the vice-presidency supports oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
DateSeptember 17, 2008 | 10:03 am
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
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