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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.”

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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.

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Our first important milestone

A milestone today – skied 1/2 degree of latitude.
Victor Serov who I call into every night with our position is really happy with our progress: ” You are doing very well Bernice and you are doing science” is his encouraging response every time I call in.

I imagine he is sitting in a tent in Barneo with a giant map, North Pole in the middle, and plotting all routes towards the pole.
Each team on the ice has to call in coordinates at night so if something happens, they are standby with 2 MI8 helicopters to assist.
Like yesterday somebody had to get evacuated because of frostbite.

To get a compliment from a Russian scientist who has spend a year in Vostok in Antarctica [coldest place on earth] as well as being an accomplished polar explorer, we should be proud of ourselves to have skied 1/4 of the way on day 5.
But it hasn’t come easy.
The half degree has been really hard work temperatures dipped to -41C too cold to film, do science, all we can do is keep moving until we need to eat and drink.

The sleds weigh over 80 kilo’s and new pains and aches show unexpectedly in places you don’t want them, like my back.
On the odd break, I would get the notebook out, jot down the GPS position while Ann pokes into the snow and yells the various snow depths to me.
The rest of the day we are doing cold management: toes we don’t feel anymore and need nurturing or placing your thumb between the fingers to warm them up inside your mit, and worse letting your arm hang so the blood can race back to the extremities.

If you are cold all blood flows to your heart and core to protect it, so to call it back is playing a trick with your mind.
Despite this careful nursing, I still end up with frost nip on all fingers.
I now need to be extra careful with exposure to cold.

Today I kept thinking how the suffering for half degree of skiing is somewhat symbolic for the suffering we need to do to combat climate change and the sacrifices we will need to make to reduce our carbon footprint to stay under our 2 degree agreement.
Just like our expedition the beginning will be the hardest to execute.
Did it take 3 hours to get ready in the morning now we can do it in 2 hours.

Skiing nonstop and pulling a heavy sled, was only manageable for 1.5 hours at the time, now we do it 2 hours without stopping.
I suspect that at day 24 all the laborious work is easy, fluent and natural without ever thinking it could be so difficult.
Could our half degree of skiing be symbolic for the commitment to stay under 2 degrees of global warming?
And once you start the expedition there is no turning back and the only option is to stick with it all the way through to 2 degrees.

Lets hope we can pull this off for the sake of the gorgeous Arctic and eventually for us.

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NASA overflight happened today!

Today was a great demonstration of total collaboration between many parties all wanting to achieve the same objective; measuring the arctic sea ice.
When Martin and I got invited to an ESA meeting in January we met Nathan of NASA who told us about the Icebridge campaign and their new flight route over Svalbard in the spring.
Their objective is to get a better understanding of the Eastern Arctic, something they haven’t been able to do.
We compared our routes and we quickly decided that NASA should do a flyover over our route to the North Pole.
Many emails, coordination and planning went into this.

Icebridge is coming from Thule Greenland and flew over the icecap measuring ice, snow, temperature en route to Svalbard.
First it appeared NASA was going to be a lot earlier then our planned drop-off but then we got delayed by 4 days and risked to miss NASA all together.
Luckily, as if this important mission was serendipitous, today at 3:30 pm the Icebridge P3 plane flew right over us the coordinates perfectly communicated.
Even a minute of latitude to the east or west, there is the chance of missing us completely on this immense Arctic Ocean.

Back in Svalbard is Kyle – engineer but much more really: a genius with GPS and a neck for coordination.
Our Iridium Rock Star sends GPS coordinates every 15 minutes to NASA.
Kyle compiles them and put them in a document for John Sonntag who instructs the pilots where to go and Nathan who is the project manager keeps an eye out for us from his big window in the plane.
John Woods had given us buoys to deploy when we got dropped off with the helicopter to mark a starting point and one to leave on the day of the fly over.

Just following our GPS coordinates would not be enough since we move and the ice drifts.
Flooded with data  and everybody’s participation, this morning at 7 am we heard to news of the planned flyover for today coming from Henk-Jan our Basecamp manager.
The plane flew first to the North Pole and 30  minutes later we heard the loud engines and saw the contrails aiming right for us.

Martin filmed from below, Jefferson from the plane and the instruments are working hard to process our data.

Why does this matter?
Each day we are doing 50 measurements – 2 km apart to understand the snow depth on the ice.
By flying over us, Icebridge can calibrate our coordinates on the ice with the coordinates they measured and to get a ground check of the snow we measure each day versus the measurements they get from the snow radar on the plane.
In a few weeks we give them our 1250 measurements and plot them against their flight path ( our trek) and examine if the data is consistent.
This was a real highlight and we feel honored to have work with Icebridge,
Thanks Nathan, John, Kyle and Henk-Jan for making this happen today.

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OIB completed the high priority Svalbard North mission.

OIB completed the high priority Svalbard North mission.
This mission was designed to sample sea ice on the eastern hemisphere side of the Pole, within the Russian FIR boundary which had formerly been off limits to OIB.
A portion of the return leg to Longyearbyen was along an ICESat-2 ground track.
In addition to Level 1 Requirements SI1 and SI2, this mission addresses sea ice level 1 baseline requirement SI3d by sampling sea ice in the eastern Arctic.
We also coordinated an overflight with the 2Dgrees expedition party, they arrived on the sea ice on April 4 at 88N latitude and 150E longitude and are taking snow depth measurements on their way to the North Pole along a portion of our flight track.
We passed directly over the expedition party at 13:16:05Z and saw them in the DMS, CAMBOT, and FLIR images.

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The weather forecast for the mission showed mainly clear skies with some clouds on the southern portion of the line near Svalbard and haze near the eastern most end of the line.
Haze was indeed present along the southern portion of the line on both the outbound and return legs, and there was also some near the North Pole.
But the haze was thin enough for all instruments to see through and collect good data for most of the mission, with about 15 minutes of ATM data lost on the southern portion of the line due to clouds.

ATM CAMBOT visible image of 2Dgrees team. (NASA/Robbie Russell)

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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”.

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88°N 150°E we aim for

We heard the news last night that we will not fly to camp Barneo, currently situated at 89º31’N, 048º58’, until 3 April and will now be going in on the second technical flight, not the first as originally planned.
Whilst this is disappointing for us all, as we’re desperate to get started on our journey, every cloud has a silver lining and the delay may mean we will have the opportunity to take and position buoys for NASA.
The buoys have a tracking device and will pinpoint the exact location of the ice and snow surveyed by the team, which will help NASA’s Icebridge program take a second survey from the air as they fly overhead.
They will continue to collect vital data long after theteam has left the ice and we are really excited to be able to add to the expedition in this way.
The buoys are  due to arrive in Longyearbyan on the 3rd but we are unsure if they will arrive before we leave.
We live in hope.
We have lots to do in Longyearbyan while we wait.
Bernice and Martin film for the expedition tv series while I busy myself with other expedition preparations such as affixing skins to my skis and having badges sewn on our clothes and fur on our hoods to keep the wind off our faces.
Kit is being modified and packed and as this is the launching point for most North Pole expeditions the place is awash with interesting characters all with wonderful stories to tell.
This afternoon we had a long conversation with the guys at NASA in Thule airforce base Greenland to determine the best longitude to be dropped off at so that the NASA P3 plane can fly directly above our transect.
88°N  150°E is the co-ordinates we will aim for.