Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Turning Up the Temperature in the High Arctic

27.08.2010
Al Werner is feeling the heat this summer. Typically, that wouldn’t be a problem to alleviate; a jump in the pool or a visit to the movie theatre would cool things down. But there weren’t pools or movie theatres in the Norwegian Arctic, where Werner just finished conducting research as part of the Svalbard Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). There were, however, glaciers--and, as the Mount Holyoke professor of geology found, they’re melting. Quickly.

“There is clear evidence of climate change here,” Werner said via email from Svalbard. “The Linne´ Glacier has been retreating since 1936 at an average rate of 20 meters per year. Since 2002, that rate has increased twofold, to nearly 40 meters per year. Now, we’re seeing the return of warm-water-loving mollusks. These results are consistent with other Arctic regions that likewise show accelerated warming in the past two decades.”

It’s an alarming trend that the REU is monitoring in the Norwegian High Arctic. The project’s ultimate goals are to monitor the area’s glacier/river/lake system, and to provide a better understanding of natural (pre-industrial) climate change there.

The Svalbard research is just one part of the much larger REU program, funded by the National Science Foundation, that aims to attract undergraduates to scientific fields by immersing them in field research experiences. In this way, Werner says, his REU project is mainly about educating and, hopefully, inspiring tomorrow’s climate change scientists.

This summer, he led seven U.S. students and three from the local Norwegian university, UNIS, on the five-week Svalbard trip. While the overall goal was to provide a better understanding of past climate change in the High Arctic, Werner and Hampshire faculty member Steve Roof worked with each of the students, helping them collect data for their individual honors thesis work.

The team was based at Isfjord Radio, an old communications outpost that has been turned into an eco-tourism station. The distance to the research site varied each day depending on what data was needed—one day, for example, project members hiked for nearly 12 straight hours to the top of the Linne´ Glacier and didn’t arrive back at home base until 11 pm.

“Most days involve lots of hiking with a heavy pack, and it is almost always rainy and cold,” Werner said. “Still, it is a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding--and what a privilege to work with the next generation of climate change scientists!”

The experience has been a role reversal of sorts for Werner, who did his dissertation fieldwork in the Norwegian High Arctic in the 1980s. Twenty years later, in 2002, he began the REU project there, in Svalbard’s Linne´ Valley, which is home to a small glacier, a meltwater river system, and a proglacial lake. Core samples taken from the lake, Werner said, are beautifully layered.

“Think of tree rings,” he explained. “These annual layers reflect glacier and climate variation through time. In a sense, we have this system (glacier-river-lake) instrumented like a critically ill patient, so that we can see the effects of annual snowfall, rainfall, summer air temperature, and glacier mass balance on lake sedimentation.”

The prognosis is not good. If the Linne´ Glacier continues to retreat at it’s current rate, Werner said, it will disappear in a matter of decades. That makes the Svalbard REU’s mission of developing scientists who will be able to research past and future climate change all the more important.

While ominous, present conditions, said Werner, make it an exciting time to conduct research in the Arctic. “By loading the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses we are conducting an incredible experiment with the climate system and we are able to watch it play out in real time."

Max Pearlstein | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.mtholyoke.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht GPM sees deadly tornadic storms moving through US Southeast
01.12.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Cyclic change within magma reservoirs significantly affects the explosivity of volcanic eruptions
30.11.2016 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>