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Solar Radiation Management

The first global conference on climate change took place in 1988, in Toronto. Now, 20 years later, scientists and diplomats are still meeting about the issue, and apart from the Paris Climate Accord signed two years ago, not much has changed. We’ve been manipulating Earth’s climate for more than 100 years. Now we have the option to do it intentionally. At the time of the Paris Accord, the Earth’s surface temperature was 1.98˚ F above the late 19th century average, and emissions had plateaued. Now, they’re on the rise again. That has some scientists thinking that cutting emissions may not be enough—we may have to resort to more drastic measures. 

Carbon dioxide removal technologies like BECCS, which removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using plants as the collectors, are helpful—but may not be potent enough. A more controversial form of what scientists are calling geoengineering is called solar radiation management. This involves reflecting heat away from the Earth instead of siphoning it out of the atmosphere. 

The strategy takes its cue from volcanoes, which noticeably lower the Earth’s average temperature by spewing sulfur particles into the stratosphere. The anthropogenic version involves spraying sulfate aerosols into the sky via a plane. 

It sounds like science fiction, but to many scientists, it’s a crude approach. “That’s a pretty unsophisticated way to cool the planet,” said Jane Long, a former associate director at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and now senior contributing scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund.

A new study published in the journal Nature this week attempts to predict what would happen if geoengineers added 5 million tons of sulfur dioxide to the stratosphere every year for 50 years—and then abruptly stopped (if, perhaps, funding ran out or the system was sabotaged). The consequences of “sudden termination” would be scary, according to the researchers. Earth would warm so quickly that animals wouldn’t have time to catch up; they’d be migrating up to 30 to 60 miles a year in order to reach more comfortable terrain—for nearly all of them, that’s nearly impossible. 

“Organisms cannot in any reasonable way keep up with these changes,” said Jessica Gurevitch, one of the paper’s authors and a professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University. The result could throw entire ecosystems—and the planet’s biodiversity at large—into a state of chaos. 

The resulting climate situation could be two to four times worse than if we didn’t do anything at all.

“One of the issues with solar radiation management has always been that if you stop suddenly, the Earth immediately ramps up to what it would have been without it—so there’s rapid warming,” Long said. 

“If you don’t mitigate [by reducing emissions], you’re going farther and farther from the known state of climate, which is really dangerous.” 

Long emphasizes the importance of planning and regulation if we’re going to seriously consider geoengineering. These projects are also hugely controversial (this iron-dumping ocean experiment sparked some outrage last year), so efforts to control implementation and public understanding are key.

“We don’t [yet] know how to govern the deployment of this technology,” she said. “As we start research, it’s very to critical to start implementing a muscle of governance.”

As an ecologist, Gurevitch has a different perspective on all of this. She thinks the results are critical, but perhaps more interesting is the interdisciplinary nature of this work—which brought together climate science, biology, ecology, atmospheric science, and more.

“The real value is this creative element in science where different scientists can get together and come up with an entirely new perspective than they would have come up with on their own,” Gurevitch said. “That’s one of the ways science progresses and can lead to a different way of seeing things.”


The Price of Climate Change

One billion-dollar weather disaster hit the Earth last month, according to the December 2017 Catastrophe Report from insurance broker Aon Benfield: wildfires in Southern California that cost at least $1 billion. For the year 2017, Earth had 28 billion-dollar weather events, which is the sixth most in a year since Aon Benfield began tabulating disasters in 1990. The average from 1990 – 2016 was 22 billion-dollar weather disasters; the greatest number was 41, set in 2013Last year, there were 31 billion-dollar weather disasters. We’ll have a full summary of 2017’s billion-dollar weather disasters by January 24, when Aon Benfield releases their annual review. Preliminarily, here are 2017’s billion-dollar weather disasters:

Hurricane Harvey, U.S., 8/25 – 9/2, $90 billion, 84 killed
Hurricane Maria, Caribbean, 9/18 – 9/21, $60 billion, 98+ killed
Hurricane Irma, Caribbean/Bahamas/SE U.S., 9/5 – 9/12, $55 billion, 124 killed
Wildfires, U.S. (California), 10/8 – 10/30, $9.4+ billion, 43 killed
Flooding, China, 6/22 – 7/5, $7.5 billion, 141 killed
Drought, Southern Europe, 1/1 – 7/31, $6.6 billion, 0 killed
Flooding, China, 7/13 – 7/17, $4.5 billion, 20 killed
Typhoon Hato, Macau/Hong Kong/China, 8/23 – 8/24, $3.5 billion, 22 killed
Severe Weather, U.S. Rockies/Plains, 5/8 – 5/11, $3.4 billion, 0 killed
Flooding, Peru, 1/1 – 4/1, $3.1 billion, 120 killed
Severe Weather, U.S. Plains/Southeast/Midwest, 3/26 – 3/28, $2.75 billion, 0 killed
Drought, U.S. Plains/Rockies, 3/1 – 9/30, $2.5 billion, 0 killed
Drought, China, 5/1 – 8/31, $2.5 billion, 0 killed
Tropical Cyclone Debbie, Australia, 3/27 – 4/5, $2.4 billion, 14 killed
Severe Weather, U.S. Midwest/Plains/Southeast, 3/6 – 3/10, $2.1 billion, 0 killed
Wildfires, U.S. West, 6/1 – 9/30, $2.0 billion, 0 killed
Severe Weather, U.S. Midwest, 6/11, $2.0 billion, 0 killed
Severe Weather, U.S. Midwest/Plains/Southeast/MS Valley, 4/28 – 5/01, $2.0 billion, 20 killed
Drought, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, 1/1 – 3/31, $1.9 billion, hundreds killed
Severe Weather, U.S. South, 2/27 – 3/2, $1.9 billion, 4 killed
Severe Weather, U.S. Plains/Midwest/Northeast, 6/27 – 6/30, $1.55 billion, 0 killed
Severe Weather, U.S. South, 1/18 – 1/23, $1.3 billion, 21 killed
Typhoon Damrey, Vietnam, Philippines, 11/1 – 11/8, $1.0 billion, 114 killed
Typhoon Lan, Japan/Philippines, 10/18 – 10/23, $1.0 billion, 17 killed
Tropical Storm Nanmadol, Japan, 7/4 – 7/6, $1.0 billion, 37 killed
Winter Weather, U.S. Plains/Midwest/Southeast/Northeast, 3/13 – 3/15, $1.0 billion, 11 killed
Severe Weather, U.S. Plains/Rockies, 6/12 – 6/14, $1.0 billion, 0 killed
Wildfires, U.S. (California), 12/8 – 12/30, $1 billion, 2 killed

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Glacier in free flow

This morning we has a spectacular hike to the mouth of the 14th of July Glacier.
This glacier is dramatic with brilliant blue ice spikes calving in the front of the glacier into the water. Icebergs are floating around in the bay.
Upon landing at the beach, Mark Drinkwater from ESA gave an elaborate talk about glaciers, ice and climate change.

The mixing of sea water and fresh  water from the glacier provides interesting dynamics for climate change models and the warm Atlantic water (today 4+C) makes it such that sea ice can’t form anymore.
No sea ice means the glaciers can flow freely – like a cork on a wine bottle – once gone there is nothing to keep them in place.
This made quiet an impact on the group – the beauty of the glaciated landscape yet so under threat.
As you walk along the beach you can see the recent retreat of the glacier, a 100 meter wall hollowed out by erosion.

This afternoon we visited NY Alysund the science station of many Arctic scientists.
Maarten Loonen gave us a tour of the complex explaining what kind of science is conducted and his field reserch of Canadian Geese.
Unfortunately, the first  geese are already spotted and there is nothing to eat because everything is coated in ice due to the rains in Feb which are now all transformed in ice.


Sustainable Svalbard Expedition Set Sail

Our Dutch Captains of Industry have arrived in Longyearbyen for our expedition to West Svalbard.
Luckily the weather cleared towards the evening.

Wind dropped and the sun came out after a day of  sleet, rain and storm.
Around 10:30 we recommended everyone to lay in bed as we headed straight Into the wind, waves formed  and people started to get sea sick.
Some opted to go outside and get some fresh air and enjoy the scenery.

Today a full program: We will arrive at the 14Th July Glacier where Mark Drinkwater (ESA) will do a talk about glaciers, sea ice and climate change.
After lunch we will sail to Ny Alysund to tour the science station – the most northern  permanent inhabitant station in the world.
Our scientist Maarten Loonen, who has been working there for 30 years will lead the tour.

After dinner tonight we are have our first sustainable workshop:
Mobility lead by the NS.

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March for Science – Huffington Post Article

Yesterday we participated in the March for Science in Longyearbyen, Svalbard.
A small community of Arctic scientists from UNIS gather outside the Norwegian Polar Institute building for what is believed the most northern march on the planet.
We hung our North Pole March for Science banner on the building and joined the crowd of about 100 students and professors – all scientists in polar studies – and walked the streets of Longyearbyen shouting: “March for Science, Science not Silence”.

With the cold wind racing down from the mountains, we had to put our full body weight behind the banner to keep it in place and visible.
In the center of town, director of the international polar institute Kim Holmen gave a passionate speech about the need for objective science and the need for Arctic climate science.
Of course this is right up our alley.

We have been featured on the front page of Huffington Post, Mashable, television NOS news and Nieuwsuur and our tweet went viral.

Click here to read the article.
 about the most extreme march for science on the North Pole.


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March for Science North Pole Edition

Nobody should argue the sense of science. Science is to celebrate our brilliant minds everywhere in the world. Those who seek to understand the complexities of our planet, those who have inquisitive minds and are driven by a curiosity for knowledge. Scientists can help us move forward into solving our climate crisis that we ourselves have created. Climate change is one of the most challenging topics of science- we humans have never experienced it before. It is a moving target and  we need to get all the geniuses together to mitigate the consequences of climate change – the biggest threat to our planet.

Scientists have not been comfortable to express an opinion about climate change in the last decades. Afraid of losing funding or face in front of peers. Most have stick to facts and models not to be pushed into statements or premature conclusions. But recently climate scientists have been categorized into radicals or climate deniers if they see climate change as a reality, polarized into believers and deniers. Often unfairly cornered by media, politics and even businesses, scientists are losing objectivity – the very foundation of science.

Science is not about believing, science is about methods, relativity, models, statistically relevance, track records and sampling and more models and sampling.
Science is about objectivity but passionate scientists or those who want to warn the world are considered alarmists. Record-breaking global temperatures and unprecedented attacks on government scientists and an administration that appears unwilling to accept—nevermind act on—well-established scientific facts.
Science, evidence, facts, and reason form the very foundation of a strong democracy—and they are under scrutinized like never before.

During the last three weeks I have supported scientists by marching to the North Pole, an extreme expedition of 224 km facing -40°C temperatures while still collecting data on the ice to support NASA/ESA and arctic scientists.
Our mission was a simple one: collecting snow measurements along a transact to be flown over by NASA Icebridge on April 6th.
This invaluable data is so desperately needed to understand ice thickness in relationship to snow.
Without this kind of knowledge of data, it would be hard to validate the snow radar in the Icebridge airplane and to understand the overall ice thickness which will have implications on the maximum extent and predictions of the health of the arctic and the world’s climate.

The importance of science in the Arctic is evident- we need not to discuss its value and its merit we need to support it and allow more of our resources. Arctic science is the enigma, the most important one of all climate science.  The Arctic is the poster child of climate change – it is here were the changes are happening the fastest.

So we flew our banner of March for Science two days ago at the North Pole and we are joining tomorrow at UNIS here in Longyearbyen for the March of Science in Svalbard.


Arctic sea ice predictions

There is huge uncertainty among scientists when the Arctic sea is going to be ice free in the September low minimum.
Some models predict this century while others may suggest it will be closer to next century.
There are some predictions that it may even be this summer since we already know that 2017 will go down as the lowest year of sea ice on record, after 2015 and 2016.

People have been wondering why we have suddenly a 30 degrees temperature difference in a week but perhaps the temperature we experience now is the normal and the extreme cold was a temporary event caused by colder ocean current coming in fed by more fresh cold water.
The Arctic Ocean is  slow to react to forces coming in but once set in motion it is difficult to stop it.

According to scientists the CO2 we put in the atmosphere will have a direct effect on the Arctic melt.
“We can directly estimate that the remainder of Arctic summer sea ice will be lost for roughly an additional 1000 Gt of CO2 emissions based on the observed sensitivity of 3.0 ± 0.3 m2 September sea-ice loss per ton of anthropogenic CO2 emissions” according to the University of Colorado.
“Since this estimate is based on the 30-year running mean of monthly averages, it is a very conservative estimate of the cumulative emissions at which the annual minimum sea-ice area drops below 1 million km2 for the first time” but models still vary as to when the certainty of when this is –  around 20 years as to the first year of a near-complete loss of Arctic sea ice.

For current emissions of 35 Gt CO2 per year, the limit of 1000 Gt will be reached before mid century.
On the other hand if any measures are taken to mitigate CO2 emissions, it  will  directly and immediately  slow down the ongoing loss of Arctic summer sea ice.
“In particular, for cumulative future total emissions compatible with reaching a 1.5°C global warming target, i.e., for cumulative future emissions significantly below 1000 Gt, Arctic summer sea ice has a chance of long-term survival at least in some parts of the Arctic Ocean”.


The sound of a locomotive in the middle of the Arctic

In the last few days we have been getting messages from Mark Drinkwater from ESA to veer to a radical  easterly direction instead of going straight North to the pole.
Apparently spring has arrived in the Arctic somewhere in the 7 million square km and the ice is starting to break up as it transport  ice from the Arctic into the Fram Straight between Greenland and Svalbard.
The last days the wind has been hauling 12 knots or more from the east blowing us to the west.
Before that is was blowing from the west and transporting us to the East.

The wind shifts around the pole and we are governed by its randomness.
According to Mark if we get into the critical low east coordinates we may get caught in a southerly drift, and have difficulty reaching the pole.
All this wind shifting in combination with the current makes the Arctic sea ice suddenly mobile.

The temperatures are still cold -25C with windchill but today for the first time we see that spring has arrived.
Wind doesn’t do much for freezing leads but a shift of 10 degrees does.

Within minutes after leaving our tent this morning, we passed over previously frozen cracks now filled with water.
Brand new pressure ridges are formed and today we watched two plates collide minutes after passing through.

With all this comes the sound: some have described it as squeaky styrofoam or a pressure cooker going off, a diesel locomotive coming to a screaming halt.

The sound of moving ice, its force, the power of all this mass put into motion at once is amazing and terrifying.
We will see open water in the next days, the first signs are here.
Temperature is going up and the Arctic will react.

So far the trek has been easy but it could very well be possible that our last 70 km to the Pole may the be most challenging.


The Arctic changed in a very frightened way

A journalist asked me for a few days ago if I can see the difference here at the North Pole between 2007 and this year.
I had a think about it because you are here so briefly in one area at a specific time of the year so any observations I can make and compare would not be realistic.
But today I revise this opinion.

The Arctic has changed since 2007 and in a very frightened way.
The old arctic had hedges of ice protecting the big fields (pans) in between, making the ice stay compact and together, drifting wholesomely to whatever direction the wind or current took it.
Now you see lots of chaos; a battlefield of ice blocks collided, folded over each other and long stretches of flat one year ice where the wind has scoured the surface.

At certain moments you might as well be in Antarctica – the sea ice has new similarities of an icecap.
All these one year ice blocks have been pushed to the surface by the trans polar drift.

This also happens in 2007 of course since this is what currents do – they take ice from one region and transport it to another.
In the Russian Arctic (where we are) it spins around and gets dumped eventually in the Bering Straight into the Pacific Ocean where the warm ocean temperatures melt the ice.

Since this part of the Arctic has much warmer sea temperatures then the Canadian or Greenlandic Arctic – we experience more movement and fluidity.
The ice may only be 1 to 1.5 meter thick here so it can move around much faster, set in motion by just the slightest wind, whereas in Canada the ice can up to 4.5 meters thick and more stable.

So yes, the ice is different today than 10 years ago despite the cold we face we can only imagine what an increase of 20 degrees will do to this part of the arctic in few months.

Melt completely.

Location camp:

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A must see on Svalbard: KSAT

If there needs to be something on your bucket list that you haven’t thought of it has to be a visit to KSAT satellite station in Svalbard.

First,  you will be blown away by the views of Spitsbergen on the drive to the top and once up there you think you landed on another planet.

Deze diashow vereist JavaScript.

It is impossible to get up there alone but since we are in company of NASA we got a special invitation to spend our Sunday morning with them.

Our NASA boys loved the control room – the list of satellites they are so familiar with and getting the antenna’s  ready to receive data when the satellites are approaching.

The satellites I like the most are the ones that fly the polar orbit – 14 of them and the most useful one right now is Sentinal 2B that just launched this fall and provides incredible images in the highest resolution.

In the control room everything is communicated in abbreviations and terms like AOS – acquisition of signal to the LOS – loss of signal.

It all matters between these two moments and the other 94 minutes when the antenna’s  are directed to get in position.

It is all programmed, in the control room the technicians are watching if nothing is going wrong as the board list each antenna getting ready in position every few minutes when a new satellite is passing by 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week.

The most important data is weather data used by everybody in the world who has a subscription to the Kongsberg KSAT services.

And the subscribers are many: NOAA to NASA , ESA to Universities and the Met offices around the world – everybody is tuned into receiving the latest weather data.

Most antenna’s can only receive data for 15 minutes before it  passed by but I think that is still amazing given that the satellites pass over at 1000 km in the air at an amazing speed of 2 km per second. The data is then send via fiber optic to mainland Norway and dispersed to the subscribers all over the world.

No interpretation of data is done at KSAT but when I talked to director Ole Petter Storstad he mentioned that the recent disaster in Svalbard in the fall made him want to take a closer look at what is happening with climate change in his area.


We went inside the room where the Sentinal B satellite is served and saw it in action as it was getting ready to receive data from the arctic that we all so desperate need to understand the vast changing situation up there.

John Woods from NASA was truly impressed with KSAT because here is where it is all happening in his world.

“To connect the dots and working on satellites for NASA  is one thing but actually see them distract information with these attena’s to the ground is whole other level”.