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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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:
lat=88.90115
lon=148.97944

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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.

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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”.

The Climate Accountability Scorecard

Ranking Major Fossil Fuel Companies on Climate Deception, Disclosure, and Action (2016)

An in-depth analysis of eight leading fossil fuel companies finds that none of them has made a clean break from disinformation on climate science and policy.

Major fossil fuel producers bear a particular responsibility for climate change.

Their products cause a buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere.

Many of these companies have worked to systematically block laws or regulations that would reduce heat-trapping emissions, in some cases by spreading disinformation about climate science.

And they are continuing to encourage, plan for, and invest in expanded and unabated fossil fuel use—despite fully understanding the adverse climate impacts of their products.

It’s time for fossil fuel companies to be held accountable for their climate actions.

Climate impacts are intensifying around the world and fossil fuel companies must be held accountable for their climate actions. Companies should immediately stop funding climate deception and publicly acknowledge the long-term goal of the Paris Climate Agreement and its implications for a swift transition to global net-zero emissions.
Left: Peter Mahon/West 12th Road Block Association; center: U.S. Forest Service/Mike McMillan; right: iStockphoto.com/Chris Rogers

In-depth analysis

This comprehensive study includes eight leading fossil fuel companies and is based on extensive research into the companies’ climate-related communications, positions, and actions, focusing on the period from January 2015 through May 2016.

Company Profiles and Scorecard Results

Results for ArchCoal and Peabody Energy can be found in the full report.

The analysis provides a detailed look at four main areas where these companies must take immediate action to prevent the worst effects of global climate change. Each of these areas includes multiple metrics that contribute to a company’s overall score for that area; the full analysis features a total of 30 metrics.

The scorecard is intended to help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future by equipping the media, investors, policy makers, and consumers—you!—with tools to assess companies’ current performance and urge specific, immediate action.

The methodology and supporting appendices for the analysis are available below.

Failing to renounce disinformation on climate science and policy

All eight companies maintain membership—and in many cases have leadership positions—in trade associations and other industry groups that spread disinformation about climate science and/or seek to block climate action.

All companies except BP and Shell scored low on the metric for “accuracy and consistency of public statements on climate science and the consequent need for swift and deep reductions in emissions from the burning of fossil fuels.”

Failing to plan for the world’s commitments to fight climate change

Among the companies in our study, only BP and Shell have publicly expressed support for the international climate agreement reached in Paris in 2015 and its global temperature goals.

None of the eight companies has laid out a company-wide pathway or plan to align its business model with the Paris Climate Agreement.

 

History was made with the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, when countries worldwide committed to an ambitious plan to reduce carbon emissions in order to curb climate change. However, major fossil fuel companies currently have business plans that would result in emissions far greater than the limits set in Paris. It’s time for these companies to align their business models with the global temperature goals outlined in the Paris Agreement.

A small bright spot: 2 out of 8 companies supportive of fair and effective climate policies

BP and ConocoPhillips received a score of “good” in this area, primarily due to the companies’ disclosure, policies, and oversight related to political spending. All companies should do more to publicly support and advocate for climate policies.

During the study period some of the companies made general statements about the need to reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases but fell short of expressing support for specific US policies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan or the EPA methane rule.

Poor to barely adequate disclosure of climate risks to investors

Only ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil have acknowledged climate change as a contributor to the physical risks faced by their businesses.

All of the companies studied can and should do better to fulfill existing climate risk disclosure requirements, and they should begin to prepare for enhanced disclosure regimes in the future.

What we should expect from fossil fuel companies

The Union of Concerned Scientists has developed a set of standards for fossil fuel producers that choose to chart a new course and act responsibly on climate change.

To meet these standards and retain the public trust and social legitimacy necessary to do business, a fossil fuel producer must accept its role in contributing to the problem and must contribute to solutions, by taking action in five broad areas:

  • Renounce disinformation. Stop all corporate support for disinformation on climate science and policy, including affiliation with or funding of organizations involved in spreading disinformation.
  • Plan for a world free from carbon pollution. Align the company’s business model with a carbon-constrained world consistent with the goal of keeping warming well below a 2°C increase above pre-industrial levels, as agreed by world leaders.
  • Support fair and effective climate policies. Consistently and actively advocate fair and effective policies to reduce heat-trapping emissions at the subnational, national, and international levels.
  • Fully disclose climate risks. Fully disclose financial and physical risks of climate change to the company’s business, including its infrastructure and reserve assets.
  • Pay their share of climate costs. Agree to pay the company’s share of the costs of climate-related damages and climate change adaptation. This report does not assess company performance in this area, as no fossil fuel company has even begun to pay its share of the costs of climate damages and adaptation.

‘Luxury iceberg water’ for £80 a bottle? It’s ignorant, insensitive and irresponsible


W
e’ve reached peak bottled water. From today, for a sweet £80, Harrods will sell ‘luxury water’ harvested from icebergs off the coast of Svalbard. Svalbarði is the brainchild of Jamal Qureshi, a Norwegian-American Wall Street businessman who visited the archipelago in 2013, and returned with melted iceberg water as a gift for his wife. He then, it seems, decided to bring this water to more people.

Astonishingly, the governor of Svalbard has approved Qureshi’s venture. He charters an icebreaker to make two expeditions a year, in the summer and the autumn when icebergs calve away from glaciers that run into the sea. One-tonne pieces of ice are carved from these floating bergs at a time. Using a crane and a net, they are lifted onto the boat and taken to Longyearbyen to be melted down into bottles of “polar iceberg water” which has has “the taste of snow in air”. On each expedition, Qureshi plans to harvest 15 tonnes of ice to produce 13,000 bottles.

The environmental sustainability of the venture is the first concern of many people, Qureshi told the Guardian. “But we’re carbon neutral certified, and we’re supporting renewable energy projects in East Africa and China,” he said. “We also only take icebergs that are already floating in the water and would usually melt in a few weeks, and that can’t be used for hunting [by polar bears].”

Some may argue that if you can afford to drink melted ice caps, who should stop you? Your money, your choice. Depleting 30 tonnes of iceberg a year is, arguably, not that much in the grand scheme of things. But Qureshi’s venture is not the first of its kind. Tibet has already approved licences for dozens of companies to tap Himalayan glaciers for ‘premium’ bottled drinking water. Ten major rivers that flow into South Asia depend on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Disrupting their source could have devastating impacts for water security across the region.

And this is not the only problem. First, sea ice is already melting. The extent of Arctic sea ice shrank to its second lowest record last year and scientists have warned this could have devastating impacts across the rest of the world, such as shifts in snow distribution that warm the ocean and change climate patterns as far as Asia, as well as the collapse of key Arctic fisheries, which could impact other ocean ecosystems. Icebergs don’t need yet more human interference – no matter how small the scale – to speed up the melting process. The bottled water industry is already giving us enough of a headache. It is estimated that 3l of water are need to produce just one 1l plastic bottle of water, which is more likely to be discarded and end up in landfill than recycled. Beside the fact that our planet is slowly silting up with plastic, it also takes huge amounts of fossil fuels to make water bottles – plastic or glass – and transport them around the world. In the US, for example, 1.5 million barrels of oil are needed per year to meet the demand of the country’s water bottle manufacturing.

But surely the most problematic aspect of this product is the sheer insensitivity of exploiting one of the world’s last wildernesses, and charging such a high price for its product? This, while 663 million people currently live without safe water. Consider the extremes: one person pays £80 to drink water, never before touched by humans and preserved by micron filters and UV light, while another – one of 159 million – depends on surface water, vulnerable to contamination by faeces, parasites, pesticides and more. The emergence of luxury water is just another ugly indicator of our world’s many inequalities.

For so many of the things we buy, there is a flashier, pricier, more luxurious alternative for those who can afford it. Why travel in economy if you could travel first class? Why buy from the high-street when you could buy designer clothing ? Water, it seems, is just the next in a list to receive this divisive treatment; why, if you live somewhere it is clean and safe, drink water from a tap when you could drink bottled water from “pristine peaks”, “artesian aquifers” and now “from the top of the world”?The wheels are in motion. Precedents have been set. Will more wealthy entrepreneurs now eye up other precious natural resources to create yet another “must-have” item?We already live beyond our means. Our lifestyle choices see us using the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to provide the resources we consume, and absorb what we throw away. At such a time, Svalbarði seems insensitive, ignorant and irresponsible. It’s time to live sustainably and consume responsibly, not promote mindless habits just because some people can afford it.For some time, water has been thought of as a commodity, and even the former UN special rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation believes it doesn’t have to be free. But something so precious, so essential to all life – human, animal and mineral – should never be marketed as a luxury.

article by Katherine Purvis

More heat on the way as North Pole temps spike by 30 Celsius

Things are heating up in the Arctic, yet again, this week, as one storm has already caused temperatures near the North Pole to spike by nearly 30C on Wednesday, and even more heat is on the way in the days to come as they will be approaching the freezing mark.

That may not seem like anything remarkable, but right now, in early February, in the deep darkness of the Arctic winter, 0C is roughly 30C above normal for what thermometers should be reading for that part of the world.