Category Archives: Antarctica

China, Pursuing Strategic Interests, Builds Presence in Antarctica

One of our Indian team members today shared an interesting and worrisome article about China’s assumed ambitions to extract resources on Antarctica.  The article refers to the Antarctic Treaty, and how it now still protects the Antarctic Continent.  In 2048 however, this treaty may not be renewed which will leave this beautiful continent unprotected against exploration.  A very disturbing vista…

May 4, 2015 – published on the website NDTV.com

China, Pursuing Strategic Interests, Builds Presence in Antarctica

China, Pursuing Strategic Interests, Builds Presence in Antarctica

File Photo: View of China’s military base in the King George island in Antarctica. (Agence France-Presse)

Hobart, Tasmania:  Few places seem out of reach for China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who has traveled from European capitals to obscure Pacific and Caribbean islands in pursuit of his nation’s strategic interests.

So perhaps it was not surprising when he turned up last fall in this city on the edge of the Southern Ocean to put down a long-distance marker in another faraway region, Antarctica, 2,000 miles south of this Australian port.

Standing on the deck of an icebreaker that ferries Chinese scientists from this last stop before the frozen continent, Xi pledged that China would continue to expand in one of the few places on earth that remain unexploited by humans.

Read the entire article on the website of NDTV.com

 

Gigantic Antarctic Ice Shelf About to Break Off

This weekend several media reported about the impending rupture of a gigantic ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula.  Satellite images leave no doubt. A huge chunk of ice as big as North and South Holland combined, is about to break off from the Larsen C Ice Shelf at the South Pole. A clear signal of the thermometer of the planet.

Barbara Debusschere wrote in de Volkskrant:

A huge ice sheet as big as North and South Holland threatens to tear off from the part of Antarctica that is hanging in the sea. Alarming. We did not expect that global warming would already affect the largest ice shelfs,say researchers.

The gigantic chunk of ice that is about to break off is part of theLarsen CIce Shelf, the largest plate in the eastern part of the Antarctic Peninsula. Larsen C is an extension of the ice cap on land and has been there for thousands of years, possibly even a hundred thousand. All that time it was never subject to this type of decay.

Satellite Images

But based on satellite images British and German glaciologists show that one crack in a short time has become so large that it is now inevitable that a huge piece breaks off” – so they write in the journal The Cryosphere. In the least severe scenario 4,600 square kilometers will disappear in the sea, while in another 6,400 square kilometers. It means that the ice sheet loses respectively nine to twelve percent of its surface, good for an area as large as North and South Holland combined.

And that is disturbing. The breaking up of ice shelves pulls an important ‘plug’ from the glaciers of Antarctica. The ice shelf works like a brake’ without which the glaciers slide into the sea accelerated, which makes the sea level rise. In 2002, the smaller Larsen B Ice Shelf already disintegrated, which meant that the glaciers were no longer held back by the ice and flocked into the sea upto eight times fasterand the sea level did rise. This effect can also be expected on the Larsen C Ice Shelf.

Stability

The stability of the entire Larsen C Ice Shelf is now threatened. The researchers warn explicitly for this. “When this piece breaks off, the front of the ice shelf becomes unstable, and risks to collapse completely. That would be dramatic because then all glaciers in this area would slide into the sea very rapidly,” says Michiel van den Broeke, Professor of Polar Meteorology (University of Utrecht) and not involved in the research.

When the large piece breaks off, Larsen C will be smaller than ever since the last ice age. “A clear signal that things are heating up,” says Van den Broeke. “Larsen C is hundreds of meters thick. But now it warms up from two sides: through the warmer air and through the warmer seawater.” Since the eighties, experts see that as a result of this in the Antarctic Peninsula and West Antarctica, the warmest areas of Antarctica, more and more ice shelves are thinning or breaking down, and that because of this also the land ice is losing mass. Van den Broeke: “That even the Larsen C Ice Shelf, which is five times larger than the Larsen B Ice Shelf that already disappeared, now already no longer withstands the global warming, is unexpected. A clear signal of the thermometer of the planet.

Larsen C breaking off

The article by Barbara Debusschere – in Dutch – can be read on the webpages of de Volkskrant – please click here.

 

A visualization of how the ice shelf rupture impacts glaciers:

Glacier-ice_shelf_interactions_svg

For NASA report and images of the Larsen B Ice Shelf collapse in 2002: go here.

NASA Facts about Climate Change … with Compelling Photographs

Icemelt_Alaska_McCarthy_Glacier-s
July 30, 1909                                                          August 11, 2004

McCarty Glacier melt, Alaska – 1909 picture taken by Ulysses Sherman Grant. 2004 picture taken by Bruce F. Molnia. Source: Glacier Photograph Collection, National Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology.


FROM NASA’S WEBPAGES ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Climate change is real, and the current warming trend is alarming because it is most likely human-induced and developing at a rate unprecedented in the past.

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. In the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree that the current climate-warming trends are very likely due to human activities.

The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated already in the mid-19th century. Carbon dioxide levels have increased tremendously since the 1950’s.


Vostok ice core data/J.R. Petit et al.; NOAA Mauna Loa CO2 record.

The evidence for rapid climate change is compelling:

  1. Sea level rise
  2. Global temperature rise
  3. Warming oceans
  4. Shrinking ice sheets
  5. Declining Arctic sea ice
  6. Glacial retreat
  7. Extreme weather events
  8. Ocean acidification
  9. Decreased snow cover


IMAGES OF CHANGE

An astonishing series of images of change can be found on NASA’s website – click here.


Pine Island Glacier calving, Antarctica

Pine_Island_Glacier_1920x1200
October 28, 2013                                                   November 13, 2013

An iceberg estimated to be 35 by 20 kilometers (22 by 12 miles) separated from Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier between November 9 and 11, 2013. Such events happen about every five or six years but this iceberg, designated “B-31,” is about 50 percent larger than its predecessors in this area. A team of scientists from Sheffield and Southampton universities will track the 700 square-kilometer chunk of ice and try to predict its path using satellite data.

Images taken by the Operational Land Imager onboard Landsat 8. Source: NASA Earth Observatory.


Muir Glacier melt, Alaska

Icemelt1
1882                                                                         August 11, 2005

1882 photo taken by G.D. Hazard; 2005 photo taken by Bruce F. Molnia. Courtesy of the Glacier Photograph Collection, National Snow and Ice Data Center/World Data Center for Glaciology.


Solar power growth, Spain

Andasol_1920x1200
September 5, 1987                                                September 11, 2013

In March 2009, Andasol-1 in southern Spain became the first solar thermal collector station in Europe. Andasol-2 and Andasol-3 were added in 2009 and 2011. In contrast to photovoltaic systems, these parabolic trough power plants store the sun’s energy in a “heat reservoir” of molten salt and generate electricity for up to 200,000 people via thermal turbines. Water from the nearby Sierra Nevada mountain range cools the system.

Images taken by the Thematic Mapper onboard Landsat 5 and the Operational Land Imager onboard Landsat 8. Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Landsat Missions Gallery “Andasol Solar Power Stations,” U.S. Department of the Interior / USGS and NASA.

Join Heroic Explorers

The history of Antarctica emerges from early Western theories that a vast continent, known as Terra Australis, should exist in the far south of the globe. European explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries started the exploration of the Southern hemisphere and their travels gave rise to the assumption of the existence of another, undiscovered continent to the south of the known world. In the 17th century it was proven that there was this continent surrounded by sea – a continent in its own right.  Only in the 18th century, was the Antarctic Circle first crossed.

Join one of below circles of heroic explorers by sponsoring the IAE 2015 – sponsor levels upon request.

 

‘JAMES COOK CIRCLE’
cook-circle Captain James Cook, FRS, RN (7 November 1728 – 14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy. Cook’s second expedition (1772-1775) circumnavigated the globe at an extreme southern latitude. Captain Cook became one of the first to cross the Antarctic Circle on 17 January 1773.
‘ERNEST SHACKLETON CIRCLE’
Shackleton Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, CVO, OBE, FRGS (15 February 1874 – 5 January 1922) was a polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic, and one of the principal figures of the period known as the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. He and his team reached their Farthest South point at 88°23’S, a mere 97 nautical miles (180 km) from the pole, on 9 January 1909. The increase of more than six degrees south from Robert F. Scott’s previous record was the greatest extension of Farthest South since Captain Cook’s 1773 mark.
‘ROBERT F. SCOTT CIRCLE’
captain-scott Captain Robert Falcon Scott, CVO, RN (6 June 1868 – c. 29 March 1912) was a British Royal Navy officer and explorer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic regions: the Discovery Expedition, 1901–04, and the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition, 1910–13. On the first expedition, he set a new southern record by marching to latitude 82°S and discovered the Polar Plateau, on which the South Pole is located. During the second venture, Scott led a party of five which reached the South Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that they had been preceded by Roald Amundsen’s Norwegian expedition. On their return journey, Scott’s party discovered plant fossils, proving Antarctica was once forested and joined to other continents.
‘ROALD AMUNDSEN CIRCLE’
amundsen
Roald Engelbregt Gravning Amundsen (16 July 1872 – c. 18 June 1928) was a Norwegian explorer of polar regions. He led the Antarctic expedition (1910–12) that was the first to reach the South Pole, on 14 December 1911. He was among the key expedition leaders, including Douglas Mawson, Robert Falcon Scott, and Ernest Shackleton, during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

Source: … Wikipedia!

Robert Swan 2041 Expedition Film

What is the International Antarctic Expedition about?  It is about inspiring and informing young leaders to return to their societies as ambassadors for Antarctica and a sustainable future.

Watch the expedition film by Robert Swan and 2041, to understand what the IAE is all about. It is amazing…!

 

If Current Trends Continue

In preparation for the IAE, I am reading ‘Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth’s Last Wilderness’, the book by Robert Swan, OBE (with Gil Reavill). An exceptionally well written book and therefore a true joy to read.  An open and honest story, absolutely funny at times, always sophisticated and informative, inspiring, human, and – on occasion – horrifying… Why on earth would one want to walk 900 miles through that devastating icy landscape, defying gruesome storms and freezing to the bone? And then do it again – walking 550 miles to the North Pole… It takes tons of courage, and a good dose of stupidity, as Robert Swan admits himself… I warm-heartedly recommend this book!

At the beginning of his book, Robert Swan sums up some of the consequences we may expect by 2041 if current trends continue – I quote:

 

  • Greenhouse-gas emissions, if they follow current trends, will rise to 700 gigatons per annum (700 billion tons annually), a level projected to induce a five-degree rise in average global temperature over the next century. Global warming will have become a reality, triggering extreme weather patterns, rising sea levels, and resource shortages that will cause widespread disruptions to life as we know it.

 

  • Given current use patterns and rates of increase in energy demands, global oil production will drop below twenty million barrels a day – the accepted level necessary for sustaining industrialized civilization.

 

  • Soot from the coal plants and “black carbon” from cooking stoves in China and India, falling on the surface of glaciers in the Himalayas, will cause them to absorb more rather than reflect sunlight, shrinking them by 75 percent and disrupting the water supply for billions of people.

 

  • Sea levels will have risen .5 meters, given current trends in accelerated glacier and ice-cap melt on the margins of Greenland and Antarctica. A half-meter rise renders untenable one-tenth of human shoreline habitation. For example, half the roadways in Cairns, Australia, will be underwater. Extreme sea level – the measurement of high seas during hurricanes and storm surges – will displace 200 million people and impact a fifth of the world’s population, over 1 billion people.

 

  • The last Alaskan polar bear will have starved to death in the wild – again, extrapolating from current trends, in this case of bear-habitat destruction and population decline. All in all, in 2041 extinction rates on earth will have approached an unimaginable threshold, with 1 million land-based species gone forever.

 

  • The last of the snows made famous by Ernest Hemingway will have melted off Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya, and the last of the glaciers will have disappeared from Montana’s Glacier National Park

 

Quoted from ‘Antarctica 2041: My Quest to Save the Earth’s Last Wilderness’
by Robert Swan, with Gil Reavill

 

Here is the urgency, for us to be smarter and more creative than ever before…

You can also have a look at NASA’s website – click here.

Antarctica vs. The North Pole

On the website www.hetlaatstecontinent.be a very comprehensive and interesting comparison is made between the South and North Pole…  Even though we think the poles are quite similar because of the extreme temperatures, there actually are many differences.

The Antarctic The Arctic
 kaart_antarctica2  kaart_noordpool
A continent surrounded by sea. Frozen sea surrounded by land.
Average annual temperature geographic south pole:
-50°C.
Average annual temperature geographic north pole:
-18°C.
Geographic south pole is 2836 m above sea level. Geographic north pole is 1 m above sea level.
Penguins, but no polar bears. Marine mammals like whales and seals, but no land mammals. Polar bears, no penquins. Land mammals (like reindeer, wolves, musk oxen, hares, lemmings, foxes) and marine mammals (whales, seals, polar bears).
Only mosses at 82 degrees southern latitude and some flora on the sub-Antarctic islands. About 90 different types of flowering plants on 82 degrees northern latitude.
Only inhabited by scientific researchers and their staff. Indigenous people like the Inuit.
Permanent research stations. No permanent research stations because of the floating sea ice.

Visit hetlaatstecontinent.be to read more…  This website is in Dutch…